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Public health activists pushing for mandatory fortification of every slice of bread in New Zealand continue to exaggerate the benefits, while downplaying the potential risks to children and men, says Laurie Powell, President of the Association of Bakers.

Powell was quoted on the FoodWorks Directory website saying: “We understand very well that it was a major step for the government to defer the Mandatory Fortification Food Standard, and we took on board the challenge from Prime Minister John Key and Minister for Food Safety Kate Wilkinson to engage in a voluntary fortification programme.

He said the association’s members have worked with the New Zealand Food Safety Authority on implementing a voluntary fortification regime, which appropriately targets women of childbearing age without dosing the entire country.

About 30% of its members range of breads have been fortified, targeted mainly at women.

The association will however continue to oppose mandatory fortification of bread, Powell said.

“Mandatory fortification supporters continue to imply that if New Zealand implements the standard that all neural tube defects will be prevented or that classrooms of children could be spared. Sadly, this is exaggerated and incorrect. Even if New Zealand had introduced mandatory fortification Food Standards Australia New Zealand suggested that the impact would be 1 – 3 cases.

While fortification programmes have been successful in many third world and developing countries, for developed countries like New Zealand, the issue is quite different, he said.

“Dosing the entire New Zealand population with folic acid to reduce rare disorders has to be balanced against the potential risks. It also has to have the wide support of New Zealanders, which is not currently the case.

“Our advice from international experts is still that the New Zealand Government made the right call. Until the science is clear that fortification is safe, particularly for New Zealand children, we will continue to oppose mandatory fortification.” Powell said. – For full report, visit FoodWorks Directory

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