Genomic prediction: Adding value to wheat

Monday, November 8th, 2021

Article provided by AGMARDT

The Value-Added Wheat Group

Grant $195,000

A new genomic-based prediction tool to assist selection and breeding of New Zealand wheat suited to people with gluten sensitivities is being developed in an exciting industry-led project.

The Value-Added Wheat Group is made up of the Baking Industry Research Trust, Plant & Food Research, the Foundation for Arable Research and the Flour Milling Research Trust supported by AGMARDT.

The Group is developing genomic methods to enable selection of wheat varieties with low levels of gluten ‘epitopes’, the portion of the gluten protein that can stimulate an immune response. With lower levels of these epitopes, there is a reduced immune response.

“We’re looking to offer consumers who have a gluten sensitivity or intolerance, a new type of wheat that is suitable and acceptable for consumption,” says Tania Watson, Research Liaison for the Baking Industry Research Trust.

“Hopefully this will also give New Zealand grown wheat a strong point of difference in the market and obviously also provide opportunities for our wheat breeders to get ahead.”

While the low-gluten epitope wheats wouldn’t be suitable for people with coeliac disease, they could help prevent coeliac developing in susceptible people allowing them to eat wheat without overstimulating their immune system.

The first milestone of the project has been completed with analysis of the genotypes of some 500 wheat DNA samples from the year one field trial and collation of data to determine agronomic qualities. This data is then cross-referenced to select which lines of wheat to breed.

The next phase is underway with the planting and harvest of enough wheat for milling tests, and then ultimately bake testing planned for 2022.

The results of this work feed into other projects as part of a multi-year research focus for the Baking Industry Research Trust and Plant and Food Research looking into lowering gluten sensitivities to wheat bread.

“This is important research work and with AGMARDT funding and that of our other likeminded research partners, we are able to do these projects together in parallel in a way that they all feed into each other. Without that funding, we’d be missing pieces of the puzzle,” says Tania Watson.

Folic acid fortification to protect tamariki

Thursday, July 8th, 2021

Media Release: Hon. Dr. Ayesha Verrall –

The Government is taking action to prevent spina bifida and similar conditions, with the approval of the addition of the B vitamin, folic acid, to non-organic bread-making wheat flour.

“This is about protecting babies. Low folate levels in mothers cause neural tube defects that result in the death of babies, or life-long disability,” said Minister for Food Safety Dr Ayesha Verrall.

“New Zealand’s rate of NTDs remains too high compared to other countries who have a mandatory fortification approach, such as Australia, Canada, and the United States.

“A little over half of pregnancies in New Zealand are unplanned, so it’s not practical for all women to take a folic acid supplement one month before they conceive – to reduce the risk of these conditions,” Ayesha Verrall said.

“This B vitamin is safe and essential for health; particularly for development of babies early in pregnancy. Folate is naturally present in food; folic acid fortification restores what is lost during processing such as flour milling.

“Organic and non-wheat flour will be exempt from fortification, providing a choice for consumers who don’t want to consume folic acid,” Ayesha Verrall said.

A review by the Ministry for Primary Industries estimates fortifying all non-organic wheat flour for making bread could prevent between 162 and 240 neural tube defects over 30 years, and reduce health, education and productivity costs by between $25 million and $47.4 million over the same period.

“Introducing mandatory fortification is a safe way to ensure women of childbearing age are supported to increase their folic acid consumption.

“This move aligns us with Australia’s fortification approach, which has achieved declines in the prevalence of neural tube defects, particularly in pregnancies among teenagers and indigenous women,” Ayesha Verrall said.

Officials will work closely with industry to ensure the recommended level of folic acid fortification is achieved, by providing support to flour millers; including financial assistance for the purchase and installation of the necessary infrastructure, which is estimated to cost $1.6 million.

There will be a two-year transition period.

  • New Zealand’s estimated neural tube defect rate (10.6 per 10,000 births) is higher than countries that have implemented mandatory folic acid fortification, including the United States (7.0 per 10,000 births), Canada (8.6 per 10,000 births) and Australia (8.7 per 10,000 births).
  • In Australia, NTDs rates fell by 14% overall following the introduction of mandatory folic acid fortification. This resulted in improved equity in health outcomes, particularly for indigenous communities (74% decline in NTDs) and teenage mothers (55% decline in NTDs).
  • During public consultation, the majority of submitters were supportive of a mandatory approach, including public health professionals and organisations, academics, and consumers. Of those who specified a preferred approach, 85% supported mandatory fortification.
  • The Ministry of Health supports the mandatory approach, and a 2018 report from the Prime Minister’s Chief Science Advisor and the Royal Society Te Apārangi found no evidence that folic acid, when fortified in food, had any harmful effects.

The report, The Health Benefits and Risks of Folic Acid Fortification of Food, is available here:

New requirements for allergen labelling on packaged foods

Thursday, February 25th, 2021

Media release from FSANZ 25/02/2021

Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ) announced new requirements for allergen labelling on packaged foods.

The changes to the Australia New Zealand Food Standards Code (the Code) will help ensure mandatory food allergen declarations are clear and consistent so that consumers have the information they need to make safe food choices.

The requirements include:

the declaration of allergen information in a specific format and location on food labels
the use of simple, plain English terms for allergen declarations.

FSANZ CEO Mark Booth said the new requirements take effect from today following gazettal in the Code.

“The Code requires certain foods or substances to be declared on labels when they are present in food.

“These foods or substances can cause severe allergic reactions including anaphylaxis in some people.

“The changes will help consumers to read and interpret allergen information more quickly and easily.

“This is good news for anyone with a food allergy and will assist people to make informed and safe food choices.

“From today, businesses have a 3 year transition period to comply with the new requirements.”

During the transition period, food businesses can comply with either the existing allergen declaration requirements in the Code, or the new requirements.

Any food packaged and labelled before the end of the transition period under existing allergen declaration requirements may be sold for up to 2 years after the end of the transition period.

More information

Read more about Proposal P1044 – Plain English Allergen Labelling

FSANZ Media contact: 0401 714 265 (Australia) or +61 401 714 265 (from New Zealand) ​​