AMA Vice President, Dr Choong-Siew Yong, today called for immediate mandatory fortification of flour with folic acid.
The Australia and New Zealand Food Regulation Ministerial Council has confirmed mandatory fortification will be delayed by up to six months while Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ) reviews the proposed standard.
"The AMA is extremely disappointed that mandatory folate fortification is being delayed," Dr Yong said.
"This measure should have been taken when the Council met last night.
"A six month delay will mean up to 25 more Australian families will experience a pregnancy affected by a neural tube defect. This is not acceptable."
Canada, the United States and a number of other nations already have introduced mandatory requirements for folate fortification of flour - an effective and inexpensive way to ensure women of child-bearing age consume enough folic acid.
The Australia and New Zealand Food Regulation Ministerial Council next meets in May 2007.
"With folate fortification and a range of other important nutritional issues such as trans fats and food labelling on the Australia and New Zealand Food Regulation Ministerial Council's agenda, the AMA urges the Council to meet more regularly," Dr Yong said.
"More frequent meetings would ensure that important issues such as mandatory folic acid fortification are considered and finalised in a more timely manner."