Global folate shortage prompts warning for pregnant women to keep up their intake

Expectant mothers are being warned to take extra folic acid to protect their babies from birth defects because a worldwide folate shortage has left Australian bakers without enough to put in bread.

Under Australian manufacturing regulations, bakers must add folic acid to bread to help protect unborn children from ­neural tube defects, including damage to their brain, spine, or spinal cord. But a global shortage has prompted the Department of Health to warn expectant mothers to take folic acid supplements and not rely on the amount consumed in their daily sandwich.

Acting Chief Medical Officer Bernie Towler advises women to continue to take a daily folic acid supplement following information regarding a global shortage of folic acid for the mandatory fortification of food.

There is a supply shortage of folic acid, which is required for fortifying wheat flour used for making bread. Wheat flour used in bread products may not include folic acid for up to 18 months, however there is no threat to folic acid supplies for the vitamin supplement industry.

Mr Towler is urging pregnant women, or women planning on becoming pregnant, to take a daily folic acid supplement, which has been found to reduce neural tube defects in unborn babies.

“Folic acid in bread provides a safety net level of folic acid for women,” he says. “Women planning a pregnancy should follow the National Health and Medical Research Council recommendations and continue to take a daily folic acid supplement at least one month before, and three months after conception.”

Women aged 16 to 44 years are also encouraged to eat and drink other food sources of folate, including broccoli, spinach, citrus fruit, fruit juice, legumes such as lentils and peas, and whole grains.

(via Herald Sun)

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