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Prime Minister Says Bread Fortification Likely To Go Ahead

Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media

Wellington, July 13 NZPA - The inclusion of folic acid in bread is likely to go ahead in September but may be stopped soon after, Prime Minister John Key says.

Folic acid prevents some birth defects, and the idea of putting it in bread is to protect women who do not know they are pregnant.

Bakers are angry about the decision, saying it adds unreasonable costs and won't work. They say women would need to eat 11 slices of bread a day to get the required dose.

Food Safety Minister Kate Wilkinson said she would seek a review of the use of folic acid in bread -- but not until a month after bakers have started adding it.

Ms Wilkinson has been critical of the decision to use the additive, which was part of a joint New Zealand-Australia food standard.

However, she said since the Labour government signed up to it she had no option but to let the implementation go ahead.

Mr Key said a ministerial review in October was the best option to stop the implementation.

"The second option we've got is to break the law.

"There's a process that we're going through," Mr Key said.

Australia, Canada and the United States have mandatory folic acid in bread, he said.

"I share the concerns that New Zealanders have in so much that I think it's probably not going to work."

New Zealand has the option to opt out of joint food standards, but the Labour government actively opted in when they had a chance, Mr Key said.

Green MP Sue Kedgley said New Zealand did not have to go through with a standard -- or could at least delay it -- given new research had subsequently come to light showing risks. She pointed out Ireland and Britain were delaying implementation.

Former food safety minister Annette King said when the decision was made that it was "a triumph for humanity and common sense".

She expected the change would see between four and 14 fewer neural tube defect-affected pregnancies a year, but admitted women would not get the recommended 400 microgram daily intake from bread alone.

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