Australian Government Department of Health Announcement – Global shortage of folic acid for fortification of food

A global shortage of folic acid in wheat flour for bread and other food has led the Commonwealth Chief Nursing and Midwifery Officer to advise all GPs and health professionals treating women in particular those who are pregnant, planning on becoming pregnant or the target population for mandatory folic acid fortification – women aged 16-44 years to share the following messages with these target groups:

  • Folic acid fortification of wheat flour for bread making was introduced to reduce neural tube defects by helping women enter pregnancy with improved exposure to folate.
  • There is a supply shortage of folic acid, which is required for fortifying wheat flour used for making bread.
  • Due to this shortage, wheat flour used in bread products may not consistently include folic acid.
  • There is no threat to folic acid supplies for the supplement industry.
  • Folic acid in bread provides a ‘safety net’ level of folic acid for women. Women planning a pregnancy should follow the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) recommendations and continue to take a daily folic acid supplement at least one month before, and three months after conception. This is in addition to eating a healthy and varied diet as recommended in the Australian Dietary Guidelines.
  • The target population of women aged 16-44 years are also encouraged to consume other food sources of folate which include dark green vegetables such as broccoli, spinach, citrus fruit, fruit juice, legumes such as lentils and peas, and whole grains.

Chief Nursing and Midwifery Officer, Debra Thoms has requested that GPs and health professionals distribute this message to women of child bearing age and through their nursing and midwifery networks.