April 19, 2012

2 Min Read
Coalition Asks FDA To Fortify Corn Masa Flour With Folic Acid

WASHINGTONA coalition led by the March of Dimes is petitioning the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to require fortification of corn masa flour with folic acid in an effort to curb neural tube defects (NTD) among Hispanics.

In 1998, FDA  mandated fortification of enriched cereal grains, such as bread and pasta; however, corn masa flour was not included. The petition, signed by Gruma Corporation, Spina Bifida Association, March of Dimes Foundation, American Academy of Pediatrics, Royal DSM N.V. and National Council of La Raza, said serious birth defects of the brain and spine in America's babies, particularly those of Hispanic origin, could be reduced if the nation's corn masa flour products were fortified with the B vitamin folic acid.

Corn masa flour is made from specially treated corn and used to make products common in Latin American diets, such as corn tortillas and tamales. The petition noted Hispanic women are about 20% more likely to have a child with an NTD, which includes spina bifida and anencephaly, than non-Hispanic Caucasian women. Although the reasons for the disparity are not well understood, Hispanic women have been found to have lower intake of folic acid overall compared to non-Hispanic Caucasian women.

"Folic acid fortification has been a common sense policy that has helped improve pediatric health and significantly reduce the number of neural tube defects, but there is more progress to be made in this area," said American Academy of Pediatrics President Robert W. Block, MD, FAAP. "The AAP strongly encourages the Food and Drug Administration to allow the fortification of corn masa flour so that a greater population of pregnant women and their unborn children can benefit from this critical nutrient."

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