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Folic acid is a B group vitamin that helps prevent neural tube
defects such as spina bifida in infants. Iodine is a nutrient that
is needed for the development and functioning of the thyroid gland,
brain and nervous system, especially in infants and young children.
Neural tube defects and iodine deficiency are significant health
concerns in Australia and New Zealand.
The Australian and New Zealand Governments agree that there is a
need to increase the amount of folic acid and iodine in our diet.
Increasing folic acid in the diet of women who may become pregnant
will assist in preventing neural tube defects. Increasing iodine in
the food supply will help to prevent iodine deficiency.
Under new food regulations in Australia and New Zealand, all
bread (except bread labelled as organic) will be fortified with
folic acid and iodine after September 2009. Fortifying bread with
folic acid and iodine will increase our daily intake of these
nutrients. Bread is a staple food in Australia and New Zealand,
eaten by the majority of the population, and is the most logical
choice for fortification.
A fortification monitoring program will enable the Australian,
and New Zealand, Governments to measure the effect of the
fortification program on the incidence, and prevalence, of neural
tube defects and iodine deficiency.
The main areas the Australian and New Zealand Governments will
need to monitor are:
The AIHW is responsible for:
The AIHW held a workshop on 21 August 2008 involving
representatives from Australian government jurisdictions,
Commonwealth Government Agencies, New Zealand Government Agencies
and experts in the field of folic acid and iodine research. The
workshop considered the main priorities of the monitoring program
and identified gaps in the baseline data.
The AIHW has collected information on sources of data in
Australia and New Zealand that could be used as baseline data. A
stocktake report of these data sources will be published in late
2008 and a baseline data analysis report will be published in mid
The AIHW recommendations include the need for ongoing monitoring
to determine the effect of fortification over time.