Mandatory fortification of bread making flour

Presented as part of Technology Transfer Seminars 2023

Krishna Samy’s presentation on behalf of the New Zealand Flour Millers Association provided an informative summary of the lead up to and implementation of the food standard requiring flour millers in New Zealand to add folic acid to all bread making flour supplied to the baking industry.

The standard was gazetted and mandated in 2021 after many years of discussion about the safety and effectiveness of adding folic acid to flour, as well concern about the practical aspects of implementing the standard. There is now very good evidence that fortification is an effective way to reduce the rate of neural tube defects in pregnancies, and scientific evidence that adding folic acid to bread is safe.

The standard outlines that non-organic wheat flour that is sold as suitable for making bread must contain no less than 2mg/kg and no more than 3mg/kg of folic acid. The specific nature of the measurements was a particular challenge for flour millers as the amounts are so small that the folic acid has to be added to flour first to make a folic acid flour premix which is then added at 1.0 -1.2 % , approx. 250 –300 g/ 1000 kg flour.

Organic bread, bread or flour made from other grains, and wheat flour not specifically intended for bread making (such as for biscuits, cakes, pastry, and pizzas) does not need to be fortified. This provides a choice for consumers who don’t want to consume folic acid.

A two-year transition period for the implementation of the standard began in August 2021. It was a complex process for all involved.

Krishna emphasised the importance of ongoing collaboration between MPI, the flour millers and the baking industry in meeting the deadline, despite covid related shipping issues and standard equipment from Europe not meeting NZ electrical standards. It was a close call for some mills he says, but all equipment was installed and micro-dosers validated by 14 August 2023.

Meanwhile in the baking industry, bakers had to change hundreds of product labels, a process that also took place during the two-year transition period. To ensure the labels matched the content, until fortified flour became available, some bakeries had to add folic acid premix manually as fortified packaging came on line.

New Zealand Food Safety is working with flour millers to ensure they are fortifying at the right levels, and flour is surveyed periodically to check levels. Mass balancing, analytical testing, records, procedures and maintenance have all been put in place, with ongoing monitoring and testing, and Krishna says it is now business as usual for all flour mills and bakeries.

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