Judith Kidwell Rabaglia
Office of Food Additive Safety
Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition
U.S. Food and Drug Administration
4300 River Road
College Park, MD 20740
RE: Petition for folic acid addition to corn masa flour at not more than 0.7 mg of folic acid per pound
The North American Millers’ Association (NAMA) writes in support of the Spina Bifida Association and five additional petitioner’s efforts to allow corn masa flour to be fortified with folic acid to help prevent neural tube defects (NTD) in Hispanic population. Hispanic women are about 20 percent more likely to have a child with a neural tube defect than non-Hispanic women. While the reasons for the disparity are not fully understood, Hispanic women have been found to have a lower intake of folic acid overall compared to non-Hispanic women.
Fortification of enriched cereal grains such as bread and pasta with folic acid was mandated by the FDA in 1998; however corn masa flour lacks federal regulatory approval for the addition of folic acid. The rate of NTDs in the U.S. has decreased by nearly one-third since fortification though nearly 3,000 pregnancies still are affected by NTDs annually and Hispanics have the highest rate when compared to other race or ethnic groups.
Corn masa flour is made from specially treated corn and used to make products common in Latin American diets such as corn tortillas and tamales. In these populations, corn masa products replace many wheat flour products in the diet, leaving many of these consumers without the benefits of the fortified products.
Fortifying corn masa flour with folic acid is a simple and highly effective step in protecting the health of Hispanic children in the U.S. and the North American Millers’ Association strongly supports this public health effort.
North American Millers’ Association