VEGA News Item

Consultation on Folate Intake of Young Women - 14/03/2007
VEGA comments on an FSA consultation on four possible options designed to increase folate intake of young women.
VEGA comments on an FSA consultation on four possible options designed to increase folate intake of young women.

1. Options 2, 3, and 4 should be integrated, except that flours (eg wholemeal) that have not been fortified with vitamin B1, calcium, and iron be exempted, in deference to objectors to mandatory additions to staple foods and water. They are still able to heed the advice on supplementation and dietary sources of the significant B-vitamins. We presume that the exempted flours might not include those derived from cereals other than wheat; however, the special needs of people at risk could be considered and indicated by advice on labels and voluntary fortification for flours used for foods for celiacs and for making pasta, paratha (chapattis), sourdough bread, and breakfast cereals (eg amaranth, quinoa, soya) and milks and yogurts. Wheat germ should be promoted as an apt additional component for breakfast foods.

2. Labelling should avoid impressions that fortification and supplementation will make good defects due to slapdash dietary habits nor should it appear to exclude populations other than young women. Beverages are also apt for fortification.

3. Notes on fortification and accompanying details must avoid confusing clashes of information, while imparting useful advice on common sources of the requisite B-vitamins and the special needs of certain groups, male and female, of all ages, eg vegetarians and people with certain allergies and intolerances. Schemes such as the “traffic light” system should be considered to prevent unfortunate juxtapositions, eg of good sources of folate, such as Marmite and savoury spreads, that are high in salt and carry the appropriate warnings relegating them to the junk-food category. It is high time now for support for our campaigns for low-salt versions of such familiar products. Or folate content might be treated as a component in the manner of fat, sugar, and salt in such schemes of nutritional labelling.

4. Folate supplements should be formulated with deference to populations with certain established aversions (eg to gelatine, milk derivatives, and coal tar colorants), such as vegetarians, Jews and Muslims. Screening and monitoring should be achieved during visits of people to GPs for various reasons and checks, when blood samples can be taken for the usual range of cardiovascular, hematological, immunological, and musculoskeletal functions. Suitably alerted GPs and teachers should ensure that no girl leaves schooling without beginning a regimen of such testing.

5. Folate may play a significant part in preventing defects other than NTD (eg cleft palate) and certain drugs may have anti-folate properties. Appropriate warnings and advice must accompany sales of products, prescribed or sold OTC or as complementary or alternative therapeutics.

6. Flours from crops rated as GM should be fortified with folate and the other vitamins and minerals proposed in normal practice, but allowance should be made for exemptions and additions as public attitudes and abstentions develop.


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