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Folic Acid: Canadians are being overdosed!

Published: 10 Aug 2009

By Joe Lederman
FoodLegal Lawyers and Consultants
© Lawmedia Pty Ltd, August 2009
 

Last month we published an article reporting that the mandatory fortification of bread-making flour with folic acid which Australian flour millers must comply with by 13 September 2009.  A recent report of a study made in Canada has found that mandatorily-fortified foods are being inappropriately dosed outside the labelled amounts of the fortification, with such foods containing from 90% to 377% of the folic acid which the food purported to contain, as written on the product label. The Canadian government introduced mandatory fortification of flour-based products more than 10 years ago, one of the first Western countries to do so after the USA. Pasta, breads, cookies and cereals are among the products in Canada currently fortified with folic acid.  

In an article dated 27 July 2009, the Toronto Globe and Mail reported that excess levels of folic acid fortification may mask vitamin B12 deficiency and may interfere with drugs used to treat rheumatoid arthritis, psoriasis and malaria.  On the other hand, other studies have shown that since the mandatory fortification was introduced in Canada there has been a decline in neuroblastoma, a cancer in children, and a decrease in the prevalence of congenital heart conditions at birth.  

However, the latest Canadian study demonstrates how difficult it is for food suppliers to measure accurately and dictate the correct levels of mandatory folic acid fortification in food.  This may also serve as an illustrative warning to governments throughout Australia as to the difficulties of regulating the levels to meet the appropriate range of fortification within the strict range between minimum and maximum levels prescribed by law.   

The Toronto Globe and Mail article can be found at:

http://www.theglobeandmail.com/life/health/labels-on-fortified-foods-are-wildly-inaccurate/article1232887/  

Our earlier article on mandatory folic acid fortification in the June/July 2009 issue FoodLegal Bulletin can be found at:

Mandatory folic acid fortification: Big questions remain unanswered