FDA Allows Food Makers To Fortify Corn Masa To Halt Birth Defects, But Few Do

Two years after the Food and Drug Administration allowed manufacturers to add folic acid, a crucial B vitamin that prevents terrible birth defects, to their corn flour, very few have done so.

A new research report found that only 10 percent of corn masa flour and no soft corn tortillas contained folic acid, which can help prevent devastating neural tube birth defects, including spina bifida and anencephaly. The grain is a staple food in the diet of Hispanics, who have higher rates of the disabling and sometimes fatal defects.

The researchers, led by Dr. Godfrey Oakley, a birth defects expert and longtime advocate of fortification, examined about 40 corn masa and tortilla products in nearly a dozen grocery stores in Atlanta.

The review included national brands, which could indicate that fortification remains low across the U.S., leaving babies at risk, Oakley said.

“We’ve known since 1991 how to make new cases of this condition go away,” he said.

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