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New safety concerns over folic acid
LESS than a month before Australia will begin mandatory folate fortification, a new study has fanned controversy about the planned public health move.
Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ) is expected to implement a regulation that any flour used for bread making must be fortified with folic acid from 13 September.
While Australia remains committed to fortification, Lydia Buchtmann, spokesperson for FSANZ, says the New Zealand Government has indicated it will delay introduction because of concerns over safety.
Now researchers from Ireland, where mandatory fortification is also on hold, have found low circulatory levels of unmetabolised folic acid were persistently present in fasting women (after caesarean section) and in the general population.
They said this implied constant exposure of both normal cells and potential tumour cells to folic acid.
Previous studies showed folic acid might increase the risk of recurrent colorectal adenomas and prostate cancer.
Associate Professor Mark Lawrence, an expert in public health nutrition at Deakin University, said although the study was small, it showed yet again the presence of unmetabolised folic acid, the effects of which are unknown.
“Several countries are now recognising the risks [of mandatory fortification]... and waiting for more evidence before they launch into what is effectively a population-wide experiment,” he said.
However, Professor Fiona Stanley, director of the Telethon Institute for Child Health Research in Perth, dismissed the findings.
“I think they have looked at extreme people who are likely to have high folate,” she said.
“There’s absolutely no linkage of this data with anything to do with adenomas or prostate cancer.”