Additional opportunities to prevent neural tube defects with Folic Acid fortification

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has published a CDC Grand Rounds report on Folic Acid Fortification. Fortification of flour and other staples with Folic Acid is a feasible, economical, safe, and effective public health policy to prevent NTDs worldwide. After mandatory fortification in 1998, NTD prevalence declined 30%-40% among the three largest racial and ethnic groups in the US. Nevertheless, Hispanic women continue to be at significantly greater risk for having a baby affected by an NTD. Fortifying corn masa flour may improve the intake of Folic Acid among Hispanics, while not contributing to higher Folic Acid intake in the general population. Nonfolate risk factors can also contribute to disparities in NTD prevalence and merit further study. Efforts are needed to evaluate the safety and effectiveness of fortification of corn masa flour in the United States and to expand fortification of staple foods across the globe. Read the CDC Grand Rounds report.

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Worldwide, 60 countries have legislation or decrees that mandate fortification of one or more types of flour with either iron or folic acid

Regulations Review Committee rejects NZORD complaint

Food safety Minister Kate Wilkinson has won a challenge against her decision last year to block the mandatory fortification of bread with Folic Acid. She has been let off the hook by the slimmest of margins. NZORD took a complaint to the Regulations Review committee of the New Zealand Parliament, claiming she had acted outside the authority given to her under the Food Act, that the consultation she undertook was inadequate, and the outcome pre-determined. "We took this action to help save lives and reduce serious disabilities", says NZORD executive director John Forman, "but it is clear these matters were of little concern to Food Safety Minister Kate Wilkinson or her party colleagues on the committee".
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Although three committee members questioned the quality of the consultation, the majority decided it was in line with the Food Act

Saskatchewan programme to monitor birth defect trends

Dr. Ed Lemire, a medical geneticist at the University of Saskatchewan in Saskatoon will spearhead a programme to track birth defects across the province in an attempt to work out what could be causing them. The Public Health Agency of Canada has provided a three-year funding grant to support the initiative that he conceived of seven years ago. At the moment there is no accurate estimate of the congenital anomalies, or birth defects, in the provence of Saskatchewan in Canada. Similar programmes already exist in British Columbia and Alberta, and the health agency is now urging all provinces and territories to introduce similar tracking systems as a means to lower birth defects, a leading cause of infant mortality. Read more here.
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Monitoring birth defect trends can for instance scientifically determine the effects of Folic Acid fortification and/or supplementation

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