Milling & Baking News - December 18, 2018 - 14

Letter to the Editor

Seeking progress in fortification
of corn masa flour with folic acid
Dear Editor,
For the past 20 years, a regular topic
in your publications has been the success of fortifying flour with folic acid.
Now I am writing to ask you to share
a missing piece of this success story
with your readers.
Since 1998, the majority of the
U.S. population has been consuming grain products enriched with
folic acid, a form of vitamin B9 that
greatly reduces the risk of brain and
spine birth defects. As a result, the
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (C.D.C.) estimates that 1,300
of these devastating birth defects are
prevented every year.
This is an extremely cost-effective
intervention. Children with spina bifida often need multiple surgeries and
rehabilitation. Consequently, the estimated net savings from U.S. millers
enriching grains with folic acid and
thereby lowering health care costs is
an estimated $603 million annually.
Another way to look at that is that
each dollar invested yields a return of
nearly $100. Imagine a funds request
landing on your desk with such a return on investment - you would expedite the approval and move with
lightning speed.
Yet due to complex guidelines such
as standards of identity, corn masa
flour is not included in products that
Adding folic acid to corn masa flour and corn masa
products is critical for the Hispanic population.


14 / December 18, 2018

Milling & Baking News

should be "enriched." The missing
piece that your readers need to know
is that Hispanics - the population
most likely to consume corn masa -
are 21% more likely to have a baby
affected by a birth defect like spina
bifida than non-Hispanics.
In April 2016 the Food and Drug
Administration (F.D.A.) allowed
folic acid to be added to corn masa
flour but did not require it. In December 2017, Emory University researchers found that in the Atlanta
market, only 4.4-lb bags of Maseca

of these serious birth defects.
January is National Birth Defect
Prevention month, and the F.F.I.
along with the March of Dimes will
ask U.S. consumers beyond the Atlanta market to look for enriched
corn masa flour products. Consumers will be asked to take photos of
nutrition labels on corn tortillas and
corn masa flour in their local grocery
stores and post them on social media
with the hashtag #FindFolicAcid to
raise awareness of this issue.
Food producers who make a New
Year's Resolution to use fortified corn
masa flour will be highlighted on F.F.I.'s
web site and in the #FindFolicAcid
media campaign. If the companies

'Due to complex guidelines such as standards
of identity, corn masa flour is not included in
products that should be "enriched."'
- Scott J. Montgomery,
Food Fortification Initiative

brand of instant corn masa flour had
folic acid. Their research was published in the Journal of the American
Medical Association.
I did my own research at grocery
stores in Minnesota's Kandiyohi
County where Hispanics are more
than 11% of the population. Consistent with the Atlanta findings,
only the 4.4-lb bag of Maseca corn
masa flour included folic acid. Other
brands and the larger bags of Maseca
did not include folic acid. Only one
of three major grocery stores carried
a variety of masa flours, and none of
the masa-based products, including
tortillas and chips, were fortified.
As someone who spent 30 years in
the grain industry, I understand why
millers are not voluntarily adding
this essential nutrient to corn masa
flour. They are simply meeting their
customers' requests, and food producers are not asking for fortified
corn masa flour.
As director of the Food Fortification Initiative (F.F.I.), I would like
to see large grocery chains, restaurant chains, and tortilla and tortilla
chip manufacturers demand fortified masa flour. The demand should
be for any product containing more
than 60% masa flour to be made with
fortified masa. This would mean
manufacturers would fortify nearly
all of the masa flour produced and
by default lead to broad distribution and the desired prevention

represented by your readers make
that resolution, please ask them to email that information to the F.F.I. at
Your readers can help us make fortified corn masa flour, fortified corn
tortillas and chips as common as enriched wheat flour and bread. In addition to preventing brain and spine
birth defects, folic acid helps cells
reproduce and prevents one type of
anemia. Adding folic acid to corn
masa flour and corn masa products
is critical for the Hispanic population as well as the growing number
of non-Hispanics who enjoy corn
tortillas. MBN
Scott J. Montgomery
Food Fortification Initiative
Mr. Montgomery has been director
of the F.F.I. since 2011. The F.F.I. is a
public-private-civic partnership helping
countries promote, plan, implement, and
monitor industrially milled grain fortification programs. He joined the F.F.I.
after retiring from Cargill in 2010 as
vice-president, global procurement leader. Mr. Montgomery spent 30 years at
Cargill, including many with the company's North American flour milling
business. He later had global operations
responsibility for Cargill's wheat and
maize milling operations and ultimately
citrus operations throughout the world. /

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