Consumer watch

25 May, 2007
Page 6 
I'm not sure of my opinion on whether folic acid should be made a mandatory ingredient in bread.
There's good research showing it could benefit infant health, but there are also concerns that it can mask anaemia in elderly people and vegetarians.I am uneasy with the idea that infant health should take importance over that of other age groups, particularly the elderly. However, I understand the drive behind these strong, ingrained human attitudes.In a recent Guardian article, it stated that about 120 babies will be saved through fortification of food with folic acid. Unless the threats to vegetarians and the elderly are substantiated, I think 120 babies being saved from spina bifida each year is a pretty impressive figure.The legislator has a duty to protect its people. If it fails to protect against something it would otherwise have been able to prevent, it is falling short of its duty. So in this respect I fall in favour of fortification.But I have suffered from anaemia on several occasions, once resulting in a blood transfusion. I am neither vegetarian or old, but I empathise greatly with the risk groups. In the absence of other options, mandatory fortification may be viable, but it is a supplement that can be administered for free by GPs or other healthcare professionals.Taking this into consideration, plus all the other arguments, I am therefore against adding folic acid to bread.

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