SST declares victory on folic acid debate

July 19th, 2009 at 11:15 am by David Farrar

According to the Sunday Star-Times, Cabinet tomorrow will throw out Labour’s decision to introduce mandatory addition of to :

THE BUN-FIGHT is over. Bakers will not be forced by law to add folic acid to our bread, bagels, crumpets and English muffins. The Key government will announce this week that it is throwing out the former government’s policy.

Cabinet is expected to formalise the government’s position when it meets tomorrow, effectively putting the controversial issue on the back burner for three years and, crucially, beyond the next election.

The government is not convinced that making folic acid a compulsory ingredient in all bread is necessary, and wants more time to assess the evidence. Folic acid has been shown to reduce the risk of babies being born with defects such as spina bifida, but bakers say women would need to eat at least 11 slices of bread a day to make a difference to the health of their unborn child.

The Key government favours a voluntary regime. It has been looking for a way to wriggle out of the trans-Tasman agreement, struck by the former Labour government, and due to take effect on September 1.

Community pressure mounted as the deadline approached. Radio talkback shows were last week inundated with indignant callers.

The Star-Times understands that Food Minister on Thursday reached an agreement with the Australian parliamentary secretary for health, Mark Butler, that exempts New Zealand from the new standard.

That is a nice exclusive for the , by their political editor .

And the agreement with Australia is much better than unilaterally pulling out. As I have said before, Australian politicians will understand how something can become a major issue.

Under the trans-Tasman agreement, folic acid was to be mandatory in all wheat flour products, including sweet breads and rolls, bagels, foccacia, English muffins and flat breads that contain yeast.

Crumpets, scones, pancakes, pikelets, crepes, yeast donuts, pizza bases and crumbed products were also to be fortified with folic acid.

It was going to be in pizzas also?

, chief executive of the Food and Grocery Council, said many New Zealanders would breathe a sigh of relief because they did not like the idea of the government tampering with their bread.

There were genuine concerns about the health effects and the prime minister was right to delay any decision until all the facts were known, she said. It was also an issue about freedom of choice.

“It’s quite a scary intervention to dose an entire country,” Rich, a former National MP, said.

“A trip to the baker should not be a trip to the chemist.”

Heh – nice line.

The Herald on Sunday also reveals that has warned and lobbied fellow Ministers about the issue three months ago.

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30 Responses to “SST declares victory on folic acid debate”

  1. Glutaemus Maximus (2,207 comments) says:

    Pragmatic common sense!

    Shame on Annette King, and the rest of the Labour control freaks!

    Just wrong.

    At least Acid in our bread, and shower pressure regulation have been binned.

    What other delights had the tossers in NZKAMPUCHEA Labour tried to leg us up with?

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  2. Cerium (22,851 comments) says:

    Petty political point scoring on a decision made based on information available two or three years ago is, well, a bit pointless.

    Pragmaticism and reacting to growing public and possible scientific concerns is to be applauded.

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  3. Alan Wilkinson (1,816 comments) says:

    Start on the Building Act and the RMA. Fixing those disaster zones will take years unless you take the Roger Douglas approach and trash the lot and start over from sensible principles – such as caveat emptor.

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  4. tvb (4,208 comments) says:

    Politically Kate Wilkinson could have handled it better. After all this is about Annette King and her Labour colleagues imposing costs on the whole community for half a dozen children and according to the bakers one has to eat 11 slices of bread a day for it to be effective.

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  5. Alan Wilkinson (1,816 comments) says:

    “Politically Kate Wilkinson could have handled it better.”

    One of the year’s major understatements?

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  6. Murray (8,838 comments) says:

    Anything that includes the words “will throw out Labour’s decision” gets my thumbs up as a good start.

    Still waiting for Key to grow a brain and flip flop of section 59. Use the words “I made a mistake and I see that now” John. Go on try it, it’ll be a first in NZ politics and its just batshit crazy enough to work.

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  7. Jack5 (4,591 comments) says:

    The NZ Herald’s Sunday Herald and Rodney Hide are both claiming credit for the folic-acid-in-bread story when credit more properly lies with Kiwiblog and David Farrar, in my opinion.

    Today’s Sunday Herald claims it broke the story and gives a link to a Sunday May 17 (2009) article.

    It then says Rodney Hide in a letter to Food Safety Minister Kate Wilkinson said a month before this that he was shocked to learn about the addition of folic acid to bread. That letter was dated 16 April.

    In fact the folic acid issue was being debated in the general debate column of Kiwiblog on March 31st, and may have been discussed in the blog earlier than that.

    Hide and the Sunday Herald hammered the issue well after Kiwiblog.

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  8. MyNameIsJack (2,415 comments) says:

    Maybe all of you should do a little science, including that dipshit Rich.

    “A trip to the baker should not be a trip to the chemist.” simply emphasises her ignorance, and the ignorance of the antis here and elsewhere – folate is a natural part of the wheat bran, the bit that’s removed before making the flour.

    Far from being a “mass medication plan” as the scaremongers likke farrar think, or a vast greenie plot as idiots like Murray see it, it was simply returning to the flour that which had previously been removed.

    But then, science never was the strong point of scaremongers or idiots.

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  9. Redbaiter (13,197 comments) says:

    “Still waiting for Key to grow a brain and flip flop of section 59.”

    Key is bereft of real political direction. He does what his advisors tell him he should do. They are his brain. Cowed by their liberal media friends, you would see pigs pilot spacehips around the sun before they would advise Mr. Key to adopt any political position outside the line “We’re National, and we do socialism better”.

    Mr. Key might one day try connecting with middle NZ, and understanding what they want, but for now, its his spineless unprincipled and politically narrow advisors and their subjugation to the whining media liberals they think are important that drives National Party policy.

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  10. Alan Wilkinson (1,816 comments) says:

    MNIJ, hogwash. Adding any chemical to a food is chemistry and requires some skill in dispensing, particularly when it is in trace amounts and may have adverse effects in high doses.

    Milling flour is a totally different business without similar risk factors.

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  11. MyNameIsJack (2,415 comments) says:

    Whole grain bread (or any whole grain product) contains folate. I eat whole grain bread, I have no worries.

    Alan, water is a chemical; water is added to bread. What skill in dispensing is required? Same for yeast. Same for flour. Same for salt.

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  12. stephen (4,063 comments) says:

    In fact the folic acid issue was being debated in the general debate column of Kiwiblog on March 31st, and may have been discussed in the blog earlier than that.

    Lovely, but Paul Holmes/Sue Kedgeley eviscerating Wilkinson last Sunday and Paul Henry following up on Key the next day probably had a bit more to do with it IMHO.

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  13. Jack5 (4,591 comments) says:

    MyNameisJack at 12.07 posted:”…folate is a natural part of the wheat bran, the bit that’s removed before making the flour.”

    What about wholemeal bread, MNIJ? Isn’t that why in some countries that introduced mandatory folic acid addition to bread (a few years ago before latest scientific concerns) wholemeal bread was/is exempted from having folic acid added? (Annette King who started this whole mess, wasn’t going to exempt wholemeal bread in NZ).

    MNIJ, if this is “simply returning to the flour that which had previously been removed.” you lefties will be able to get your folic fix by buying wholemeal bread and if still necessary, eating a little wheat germ.

    And Katherine Rich is brighter in every way and light years better looking than any of the H1 harridans. Not that you lefties can tell when you thought a jackbooted Helen Clark was a sex bomb (today’s Sunday papers). You lefties are dim-sighted as well as dim-witted. No wonder international optician chains are moving into NZ.

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  14. Jack5 (4,591 comments) says:

    Re Stephen’s post at 12.19: we were talking about who broke the story in this latest round of interest, not the most influential, Stephen.

    I agree an intransigent Wilkinson was outperformed by Kedgley, but I think Holmes got a little too agitated to be effective. This was doubtless because of his personal health interest.

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  15. andrei (2,504 comments) says:

    Far from being a “mass medication plan” as the scaremongers likke farrar think, or a vast greenie plot as idiots like Murray see it, it was simply returning to the flour that which had previously been removed.

    Folic acid is not a naturally occurring folate it is the product of a chemical laboratory – to be sure it probably ends up behaving biochemically the same way naturally occurring folates do in the human body but who knows for sure.

    And even if it does help reduce the incidence of neural tube defects – and it certainly doesn’t eliminate them all this may come at the cost of other health issues for other sectors of the population.

    Given that nobody knows what the long term consequences of daily folic acid ingestion may have upon individuals it is beyond obscene that the “mummy knows best” attitude of the ruling class decreed that we should all be vitamized whether we want to or not.

    Fuck being a guinea pig in a noble public health experiment, its not for me.

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  16. Adolf Fiinkensein (2,797 comments) says:

    It’s just as well MyNameIsFuckwit is not the Minister for Science and Technology.

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  17. Alan Wilkinson (1,816 comments) says:

    MNIJ, not trace amounts and not risk factors for overdoses. How hard is that to understand?

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  18. petal (704 comments) says:

    Another common sense decision by the Key Government. Apart froms s92 having a 2nd life, this is a particularly good record of pragmatism over idealism. Long may this continue!

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  19. coge (176 comments) says:

    Clearly New Zealanders don’t want their food interfered with by Govt. It’s the sort of low level legislative undertaking you might expect in Nazi Germany. Chinking away our rights bit by bit. Also it critically interferes with the craft that is baking. Leave our bakers alone to get on with baking. Another hairbrained scheme from Labour.

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  20. Murray (8,838 comments) says:

    Under a socialist government he could well be Adolf.

    Another Full Moon King.

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  21. Cerium (22,851 comments) says:

    Many of the bakers aren’t so clean on this sort of thing either. Are you aware what they put in bread already?

    If I bake bread at home I use flour, water, yeast, sugar, salt, optionally oil.

    Checking the label of a New World “freshly baked” Country Soy Barley & Linseed loaf:
    Wheat flour, soy, kibbled soy, soy flour, barley, linseed, bran, yeast, salt, sugar, malt flour
    Ok for that type of bread so far I guess. And:
    Emulsifier 472E (Diacetyltartaric and fatty acid esters of glycerol)
    Emulsifier 481 (Sodium lactylate or Sodium oleyl lactylate or Sodium stearoyl lactylate
    Palm oil (the one Cadbury has been criticised for)
    Canola oil
    Flour improver 300 (Ascorbic acid)
    Enzymes (unspecified, must be alpha-Amylase, papain, bromelain, ficin, Lipases or Lysozyme)
    Acidity regulator 330 (Citric acid)
    Antioxidant 330

    All approved. I wonder if they are all “natural”. And necessary. And completely safe.

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  22. Murray (8,838 comments) says:

    How many of those things does the government REQUIRE them to include Cerium?

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  23. Cerium (22,851 comments) says:

    I understand the compulsion issue. I was not keen on getting Folic acid imposed on me. But I thought it was worth seeing what we voluntarily consume – and it may put the folic acid thing into perspective.

    Don’t worry about absorbic acid, 80% of the world’s supply of ascorbic acid is produced in China.
    But consuming too much is known to cause stomach upset and diarrhea.

    You should not use citric acid and sodium citrate medication if you have kidney failure, severe heart damage (such as from a prior heart attack), Addison’s disease (an adrenal gland disorder), high levels of potassium in your blood (hyperkalemia), or if you are severely dehydrated or have heat cramps. Before you take citric acid and sodium citrate, tell your doctor about all your medical conditions, especially kidney disease, heart disease, high blood pressure, a history of heart attack, urinary problems, swelling (edema), or chronic diarrhea (such as ulcerative colitis, Crohn’s disease).

    DATEM, (Diacetyl Tartaric (Acid) Ester of Monoglyceride) is prepared by the reaction of diacetyl tartaric anhydride with mono- and diglycerides that are derived from edible sources. The major components are a glycerol molecule with a stearic acid residue, a diacetyltartaric acid residue and a free secondary hydroxyl group.
    If taken in overdose or in a concentrated form tartaric acid produces severe gastro-enteritis. In these cases lime-water, alkalis and magnesia should be used as antidotes, and opium may be required.

    Sodium stearoyl lactate (and the similar calcium stearoyl lactate) is an organic compound used as a food additive.
    It is made by combining lactic acid and stearic acid, and then reacting the result with sodium hydroxide or calcium hydroxide to make the sodium or calcium salt.

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  24. Alan Wilkinson (1,816 comments) says:

    Cerium, apart from compulsion my issue is with risk. These big companies will have properly qualified labs and people to prepare additives and tightly controlled and monitored manufacturing processes to incorporate them.

    The risk is far more with the corner baker or pizza maker who has an old salt shaker full of folic acid in the corner and a young bloke off the street employed to mix the dough.

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  25. Cerium (22,851 comments) says:

    Big companies can be the worst at using addtitives that suit their bottom lime more than the well being of their customers.

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  26. Owen McShane (1,226 comments) says:

    While I agree with the decision it seems to have been on the back of some junk science as in:
    “bakers say women would need to eat at least 11 slices of bread a day to make a difference to the health of their unborn child.”

    That is only true if the woman eats NOTHING ELSE AT ALL. If the woman is on a normal diet she will need to only eat two or three slices of the bread to get the recommended dose for her pregnant condition because we get vitamin b9 from green vegetables, nuts, orange juice, egg yolks and all manner of foods.
    This false claim became a factoid almost overnight. I must have emailed newstalk zb five times trying to get them to get it right but was ignored. I phoned TVOne and pointed out the facts and the reporter promised to pass it on to the news editor. But that night, and the next night, there it was again.
    And still the Sunday Star Times quotes the bakers who have got it totally wrong. The problem was that some of the earlier claims were correct but misleading when they said “It takes eleven slices of bread to consume the recommended dose.” This is factually correct but irrelevant. Why does anyone aspire to consume a recommended dose of any vitamin or mineral from only one source?

    But the baker’s statement is totally wrong because it only takes two to three slices of bread to “make the difference”.

    Climate Change factoids are full of this sort of stuff.

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  27. Alan Wilkinson (1,816 comments) says:

    There are plenty of facts missing in action from the MSM reports.

    First, Aussie NTD rates are double those in NZ. Second, most NTD babies die before or soon after birth. Third, folic acid additives have much more impact where the NTD rates are high than where they are low.

    Fourth, the Ministry estimates at best 20% of NTD cases would be avoided and at worst only 7% – the uncertainty is huge and the likely benefit so small as to be almost indistinguishable from that obtained by encouraging women to take folic acid voluntarily.

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  28. Chris_C (224 comments) says:

    Cerium:

    “Don’t worry about absorbic acid”

    Ascorbic acid is also known as vitamin C. Folic acid as also known as vitamin B9, while another name for thiamine is vitamin B1, and vitamin E is otherwise known as tocopherol.

    Change the name and the perception is much different, isn’t it.

    Alan Wilkinson:

    “The risk is far more with the corner baker or pizza maker who has an old salt shaker full of folic acid in the corner and a young bloke off the street employed to mix the dough.”

    Do you really think that’s how it would work? I’m sure if they’ve gone far enough to legislate it going into the bread, then they’ve got much more accurate ways of measuring how much goes in.

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  29. backster (2,079 comments) says:

    Likewise the enzymes mentioned are found naturally in yellow foods and are vital for digestion, though like vitamin E they are often destroyed by cooking at high temperatures (like baking bread.)…. I think the research has tended to show that folic acid is beneficial to woman both for child birth and as hindering the onset of colon cancer. It also tends to show it may be harmful to men just as excesses of estrogen and testosterone is harmful to the sex it is not natural to.. The effect of excess folic (from Natural and mandated sources) on children does not even appear to be known. I also read the folic to be added to bread was not to be a natural extract but a synthetic compound. Clearly mass medication could have been fraught with problems.

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  30. Alan Wilkinson (1,816 comments) says:

    backster, I don’t think any benefit re colon cancer has been shown – some studies suggested it made it worse.

    Chris_C, well if it wasn’t going to be in the flour in NZ then it has to be added during baking of all kinds of products – requiring a separate “calculation” for every batch of every product mixed. Good luck to getting that right in every small baking business.

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