Health Freedom NZ are opposed to adding folic acid to bread for many reasons we list below. If we accept that mass medication of the population for one deficiency is an acceptable practice, then we open the flood gate for chemical manufacturers to lobby government and add all manner of chemicals to our food for all manner of diseases. The proposed scheme sets a dangerous precedent. The solution to New Zealands nutrient-deficient expectant mothers is not the addition of synthetic Folic Acid to bread, which is replacing the natural substance Folate that is stripped by food producers and processors. For a more in depth discussion of this serious issue please read on.

Health Freedom NZ is opposed to the mandatory fortification of bread with folic acid for a number of reasons.

1. Since women are not the biggest consumers of bread, the scheme will not effectively reach its target market.

2. The scheme sends poor healthcare advise in telling women to eat lots of bread in these times of rising Obesity, Diabeties and Coeliac disease.

3. Mass medication breaches civil liberties, contravenes the Bill of Rights Act of 1990, and the Medicines Act of 1981.

4. The proposed scheme does not follow good pharmacological practice, which dictates the right dose to the right person at the right time.

5. It sets a dangerous precedent for other chemical companies to lobby the government to add all manner of additives to our food for the purpose of preventing diseases.

Why Fortification is Mass Medication

• The Medicines Act defines medicine as “any substance or article…that is manufactured…sold, or supplied…:  (a) For administering to one or more human beings for a therapeutic purpose”.

• If folic acid is being administered to prevent neural tube defects (NTDs) then it is being used for a therapeutic purpose and is therefore a medicine.

• If folic acid is mandatorily being added to a staple food like bread that is eaten by the masses, it is therefore enforced mass medication.

Why Mass Medication is Unethical

• The Human Rights Act of 1993 states that you have the right to refuse medical treatment.

• There are a variety of reasons why a person may want to refuse medical treatment.

• Because many medicines, chemicals and vaccines come with risks, dangers and side effects, allergic reactions, you are the best person to decide whether any particular substance will be of benefit or danger to you.

• No one has the right to force anything into your body without your knowledgeable consent, free from coercion, manipulation and misinformation.

The justification for adding folic acid to bread was to compensate for the removal of folate during the milling process. Folic acid is the synthetic form of folate. There are many people who prefer to consume the natural version of a food rather than the synthetic version (whole grain breads still have the folate in them). Compulsory fortification removes that right.

Why Mass Medication is Ineffective Health Policy

Does it make sense to you that if we want to prevent women from giving birth to defective babies we should medicate young boys, girls, men and women who can’t give birth?

We have mentioned before that good pharmacology dictates the right dose to the right person at the right time. Targeting the appropriate group at risk with the right response is more likely to get the desired result.

Specifically with the fortification of bread with folic acid, the core problems are women are not big consumers of bread, in fact a growing number of women cannot eat bread because of health issues. These women (and child bearing women in general) will still have to increase folate consumption either via diet or supplements. Getting an even dosage of folic acid for each slice of bread is practically very difficult (if not impossible) - the scheme comes with more problems than the single problem it sets out to solve.

Specific Problems

A growing number of New Zealanders are discovering they cannot consume bread daily, if at all, without adverse side effects. Coeliac disease is an intolerance to certain proteins found in grains like wheat, barley and rye. Sufferers of the disease, mainly women, cannot eat bread or wheat products without suffering severe symptoms.

A thirty year study was undertaken in **Canterbury that revealed Coeliac disease was on the rise and the overall female to male ratio of the disease was 2:1. However, in women between 30-39 the ratio jumps to 3.3:1. 

Women with diabetes have to keep their carbohydrate levels down to avoid insulin spiking. Women fighting obesity and weight gain are not big consumers of bread.  Women with Crohn’s disease steer clear of gluten.

Putting folic acid in the bread that everyone eats, to target a group that aren’t big consumers of the product is completely nonsensical. Mass medication will not, and does not, effectively reach its target market.

Encouraging women to eat more bread is not the right message to be sending in a climate where diabetes and obesity are on the rise, as well as other diseases specific to wheat and gluten intolerance. The scheme will cause more problems than the single issue it seeks to solve.

Women eating bread will still have to take supplements to prevent NTDs and they will still need to be educated about supplementation for childbirth. Health Freedom maintains a far better solution is to educate all New Zealanders about what constitutes a well-balanced healthy diet, the need for dietary supplements to make up for our nutrient-deficient food chain, and to make it easier for all New Zealanders to have access to both. 

Blending folic acid in a free-flowing form to make pills is very difficult. Supplement manufacturers have told Health Freedom it requires specialised equipment and blending processes that they are geared for. Both the bakers and the supplement companies we’ve spoken to have raised concerns about the difficulty of ensuring an even dose of folic acid per slice of bread. There have been no tests undertaken to see if this is even possible.
In other countries where the fortification scheme is in place the chemical is being added to the flour at milling process and not the dough. Conceivably, through human error and the nature of folic acid binding, one slice of bread could contain a large amount of the chemical while others had none at all – all this through no fault of the bakers. This could pose serious health risks. When it comes to supplementation it is best left to supplement manufacturers who are qualified to ensure good manufacturing practice.

Folic Acid fortification sets a dangerous precedent. If we agree that it is acceptable to dose over 4 million New Zealanders to protect a handful of pregnant mothers per year, it opens the door for other additives to be added to our food for other diseases. The chemical industry has significant resources to lobby government on all manner of chemical disease solutions if this proposal goes ahead.

The Folic Acid debate is a hypocrisy. After consultation with supplement manufacturers and scientists, Health Freedom discovered inconsistencies between NZ Food Safety and the Ministry of Health over folic acid. During the passage of the Therapeutic Products and Medicine Bill in 2006-2007, a staff member of the New Zealand Food Safety Authority was interviewed on Close Up. They passed the comment that they were keeping the low upper level of 300 micrograms as the recommended dosage in folic acid supplements (even though the Ministry of Health recommendation for upper levels was 800 micrograms).

Their reason stated on Close Up was because they did not trust supplement companies to get the right dosage in their product. Close Up investigated how this inconsistency had the supplement industry hamstrung and how it particularly affected one New Zealand family. Pregnant Wendy Holgate had a 5 month scan and was told her child had severe spinal bifida. She was asked, “Weren’t you taking folic acid supplements?” She had indeed been taking the supplements but did not know the recommendation from the Ministry of Health was 800 micrograms per day. Supplements sold in health stores are legally bound to have only 300 micrograms as the recommended daily allowance. If supplement companies told pregnant women to take 3 per day then they would have been recommending an overdose.

If NZFSA didn’t trust these well set-up supplement companies to get the dosage right, how can they now say they trust bakers, who have no experience in supplement manufacturing, no specialised equipment for blending folic acid and no measuring system for consistency in doses in each slice of bread?

Where to From Here

The Government has called a halt on the scheme and wants submissions on the matter, which are due by August 12th.

What you can do to help:

1. Make a submission. You can find the details at this website:

2. Write to your MP about your views. You can find the details about contacting your MP at this website:

3. Help us get our poll out to the nation targeting childbearing women. Post this link on your blogs, twitter or facebook account, message boards etc.

4. Make a donation to Health Freedom NZ Trust to help us campaign on your behalf.

5. Stay informed and join our newsletter action alert group here.

6. View all Press Releases on this issue here.

** Canterbury (1970–1999) study of coeliac disease in the Canterbury region of New Zealand Bramwell Cook, Robert Oxner, Bruce Chapman, Martin Whitehead and Michael Burt.“