The Australia and New Zealand Food Regulation Ministerial Council (ANZFRMC) has responded to calls from the AMA and other groups with the announcement of mandatory folate fortification of flour for bread making.
ANZFRMC now requires mandatory fortification of folic acid to wheat flour for bread making to be implemented by 2009.
Chair of the AMA Child and Youth Health Committee, Dr David Thomas, said today that the AMA has been calling for mandatory fortification since 2004 as a simple way to prevent neural tube defect in pregnancies.
"It is an inexpensive and highly effective way to reduce this severe birth defect," Dr Thomas said.
"ANZFRMC has taken an important step towards reducing the incidence of this life-threatening condition. The AMA welcomes the decision and supports the implementation of the new food standards.
"We support the Council's plan for a comprehensive and independent review of this initiative in 2009."
ANZFRMC expects that mandatory fortification, in combination with voluntary supplement use, will prevent 14 to 49 neural tube defects in the 300-350 affected pregnancies recorded in Australia each year.