Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ) developed a mandatory folic acid fortification standard to help reduce the incidence of neural tube defects (NTDs) (serious birth defects) and a mandatory iodine fortification standard to address the re-emergence of iodine deficiency in the population. These standards, effective from September–October 2009, require the addition of folic acid to bread-making flour in Australia and iodine (via iodised salt) to bread in Australia and New Zealand.

The Australian Health Ministers’ Advisory Council commissioned the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) to prepare a report of relevant baseline data for monitoring mandatory folic acid and iodine fortification. The purpose of this supplement report is to provide additional data that were unavailable when Mandatory folic acid and iodine fortification in Australia and New Zealand: baseline report for monitoring(the baseline report) (AIHW 2011) was drafted. The supplement is best considered as a companion document to the baseline report.

This supplement has a similar structure to the baseline report and provides data on nutrient intake, nutrient status, health benefits and cancer rates in Australia and New Zealand. Key features of this additional data are outlined below.

Prior to mandatory folic acid fortification

  • The consumption of bread has remained relatively stable since 2001.
  • Very few (4%) Australian children exceeded the upper level of intake for folic acid and only a small proportion (6%) took supplements containing folic acid.
  • About half of all Australian mothers took folic acid supplements just prior to and during their first trimester of pregnancy, as recommended. Supplement usage was lower in mothers without tertiary qualifications and in those living in more disadvantaged and remote areas.
  • Based on data from three states, the NTD incidence rate in Australia has decreased from 13.3 per 10,000 pregnancies in 1998 to 10.9 per 10,000 pregnancies in 2008.

Prior to mandatory iodine fortification

  • One in four Australian girls (25%) aged 14–16 years had inadequate iodine intake, with girls generally having lower intakes than boys. Few (1%) children exceeded the upper level of intake for iodine and only a small proportion consumed supplements.
  • The results from the Aboriginal Birth Cohort Study showed that mild iodine deficiency was present in regional and remote areas of the Northern Territory.
  • The results from the 2009–2010 Victorian Health Monitor showed that median urinary iodine concentration (MUIC) of Victorian adults was 79 μg/L, indicative of mild iodine deficiency.