March of Dimes, the US based organisation that works to improve the health of babies and combat birth defects, has called for corn masa flour to be fortified with folic acid.
Folic acid fortification is one public health strategy to ensure that pregnant women receive sufficient folic acid, and essential vitamin, to prevent neural tube defects (NTDs) such as spina bifida in their unborn children. The practice is already used in the US for selected cereal products such as wheat flour, and there has been a significant drop in the incidence of NTDs since it was introduced in 1998.
Now, the March of Dimes is keen to reduce the rate further, particularly among Mexican Americans, who commonly use corn masa flour for staple foods such as tortillas and tamales. Medical director Alan Fleischman said: “Despite the fact that fortification has given thousands of babies a healthy start in life, it is imperative we address this serious health problem in the Hispanic community”. However, FDA approval will be required for such a measure.