Background/Aim: The New Zealand government deferred in 2009, and opted-out in 2012 from a trans-Tasman food standard which mandated that all bread be fortified with folic acid. Instead, the government encouraged the New Zealand bread baking industry to implement in 2010 a voluntary programme to add folic acid to approximately 30% of breads. The aim of this survey was to estimate the effect of the voluntary fortification programme on blood folate status of New Zealand women.
Methods: Women, 18 to 44 y, living in Wellington (North Island) or Dunedin (South Island) were randomly selected from the Electoral Roll. Participants were asked about consumption of folic acid fortified breads and breakfast cereals. Serum and erythrocyte folate were measured by microbiological assay.
Results: 288 women participated in the survey. Geometric mean (95%CI) serum folate concentration was 30 nmol/L (28 to 32) and erythrocyte folate was 996 nmol/L (945 to 1049). These concentrations were 30 to 40% higher compared with women of similar age sampled as part of a national nutrition survey in 2008/09 – prior to the voluntary folic acid fortification programme. Reported consumption of fortified bread and fortified breakfast cereal in the past week was associated with 25% (P = 0.01) and 15% (P= 0.04) higher serum folate concentrations, respectively.
Conclusion: Blood folate status of New Zealand women of childbearing age increased following the introduction in 2010 of the bread baking industry’s voluntary folic acid fortification programme.
Funding sources: NZ Ministry for Primary Industries and NZ Ministry of Health.