Efforts to have organic bread exempted from mandatory fortification with folic acid appear to have been successful says the NZ Soil and Health Assn.
Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ) is proposing that bread in New Zealand represented as organic be exempted from mandatory folic acid fortification, should fortification of bread with folic acid be implemented as intended.
FSANZ proposed mandatory fortification of all bread, including organic bread, with folic acid in 2006.
"An exemption allows organic products to remain free of synthetic ingredients, maintaining the integrity of the organic label, and also provides consumer choice", said Soil & Health spokesperson Steffan Browning.
"Thanks to efforts by Soil & Health, Organics Aotearoa New Zealand, The Green Party and others, Food Safety Minister Annette King brought up the issue of organic products at the Australia and New Zealand Food Regulation Ministerial Council meeting in October 2006".
Mandatory fortification with folic acid is seen by the Ministerial Council as a possible means of reducing the incidence of neural tube defects (NTDs).
The proposal would mean nearly all bread in New Zealand would be synthetically fortified in order to reduce by 20%, the estimated 70 pregnancies affected by NTDs.
Soil & Health submitted to a review of the original 2006 proposal that organic products must remain free of synthetic ingredients, consumers must have choice, and that mass medication is not a suitable alternative to a strong healthy diet campaign and education regarding risks of NTDs.
Soil & Health had also pointed out the difficulty in compliance with mandatory fortification by small organic flour millers and bakers, said spokesperson Steffan Browning.
The New Zealand Commerce Commission and its Australian equivalent also submitted that consumers were likely to expect foods labeled 'organic', or 'certified organic' would have ingredients derived from living organisms without the use of chemical fertilizers and/or pesticides, and would not contain synthetic vitamins such as folic acid.
They submitted that use of the term 'organic' in relation to foods fortified with folic acid would mislead consumers into believing that the product was the result of organic processes and could risk breaching the New Zealand Fair Trading Act 1986 or the Trade Practices Act 1974.
Mr Browning said Soil & Health remained opposed to the mandatory fortification of all bread, but was pleased the integrity of organics was being supported by the Food Safety Minister Annette King, the Commerce Commission and FSANZ.