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Review of folic acid fortification of food

UPDATE – 8 July 2021

After extensive public consultation and work with the flour and baking industries, the Minister for Food Safety announced a new policy on the fortification of food with folic acid. From mid-August 2023, all non-organic wheat flour suitable for bread making, produced or sold in New Zealand, must be fortified with folic acid.

Find out more about the policy: folic acid fortification of bread

Download a brief overview of submitters' comments to this consultation, and MPI's responses [PDF, 1.3 MB]

Background to this consultation

Folic acid is an essential B vitamin important for the healthy development of babies early in pregnancy. There is overwhelming evidence that consuming sufficient folic acid before conception and during early pregnancy can prevent many cases of neural tube defects such as spina bifida.

The Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) sought feedback on options for strengthening fortification of bread or fortifying wheat flour.

The consultation ran from 1 October to 12 November 2019 and included public meetings in Auckland, Wellington, and Christchurch.

What was proposed

Consultation documents

Folic acid fortification: Increasing folic acid availability in food [PDF, 2.3 MB]

Short consultation guide [PDF, 508 KB]

Related documents

MPI technical supporting document [PDF, 1.3 MB]

Sapere cost utility analysis [PDF, 711 KB]

The health benefits and risks of folic acid fortification of food – Office of the Prime Minister's Chief Science Advisor

MPI 2018 folic acid monitoring report [PDF, 1.1 MB]

What was proposed?

New Zealand’s rate of neural tube defects is higher than it could be, and Māori women have higher rates of affected live births than other groups. The financial, social, and emotional impact from these birth defects can be significant for many families, whānau, and communities across New Zealand.

MPI recognises the importance of this issue and we sought feedback on whether the government should:

  • continue with the current voluntary approach of fortifying up to 50% of packaged sliced bread
  • ask industry to enhance the voluntary approach to fortify 80% of packaged sliced bread, or
  • introduce mandatory fortification of bread, bread-making wheat flour, or all wheat flour.

All options excluded organic products.

Folic acid fortification is an effective way to reduce our rate of neural tube defects. There is no conclusive evidence that folic acid in the amount recommended for fortification has any harmful effects on health.

Hearing the views of the public helped us understand the possible impacts of the proposals.

Submissions are public information

Note that any submission you make becomes public information. People can ask for copies of submissions under the Official Information Act 1982 (OIA). The OIA says we have to make submissions available unless we have a good reason for withholding them. That is explained in sections 6 and 9 of the OIA.

Tell us if you think there are grounds to withhold specific information in your submission. Reasons might include that it’s commercially sensitive or personal information. However, any decision MPI makes to withhold information can be reviewed by the Ombudsman, who may tell us to release it.