Australia, NZ recognise benefits of folate, other fortification

Related tags New zealand Neural tube defects Nutrition Folic acid

Australia and New Zealand could become the next countries to
require fortification of certain foods with folate.

Ministers from the Australian and New Zealand governments said in a release on Friday that their food authority is to work on drawing up a standard for mandatory food fortification with folate in the next two months.

Only a handful of countries, including the US, Canada and Chile, currently require folate fortification of foods. The nutrient has been shown to significantly reduce the risk of neural tube defects in newborn infants and is recommended by most public health authorities for all women of childbearing age.

But European regulators fear that fortification of all foods may impact the health of other population categories, such as the elderly, as folate can mask B12 deficiency.

Australia and New Zealand already permit a health claim (their only one) on folate for its protection against neural tube defects, which affect around 400-500 pregnancies in Australia each year.

The Australia and New Zealand Food Regulation Ministerial Council is also to consider mandatory fortification with iodine to help redress the increasing incidence of gout among young children.

The new policy guideline of food fortification is also expected to create opportunities for adding vitamins and minerals to food, "where there is demonstrated evidence of a potential health benefit, and it is clear that the fortification of a food will not result in harm"​, according to the release.

Progress on biomarker claims

Last week's meeting also determined that claims regarding the maintenance of a biomarker, for example 'maintains healthy cholesterol', would be permitted on foods. They will be treated in the same way as enhancement claims requiring manufacturers to apply to FSANZ for approval of a biomarker maintenance claim, prior to releasing the product to market.

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