Corn-masa gains a vitamin to benefit babies

By Jennifer Goetz
Nation & World Editor

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) decided on Thursday, April 14, to permit folic acid in corn-masa flour. This is a B vitamin that is thought to prevent birth defects, The Seattle Times reported. Folic acid has been used to enrich wheat and rice flours.

Corn-masa can be found in tortillas, taco shells and corn chips and is considered to be a Hispanic staple food (masa means dough in Spanish), according to the FDA press release.

According to the new rule in the Federal Register, this vitamin should be at a level no higher than 0.7 milligrams per pound of corn-masa flour.

The Seattle Times reported that Susan T. Mayne, director of the FDA Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition, said, “What we are saying today is we are confident in the safety of this addition to the U.S. food supply.”

The Seattle Times also reported that research done by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) shows that an average of 40 “neutral-tube defects” in Hispanic women every year could be prevented. Neutral-tube defects “are birth defects affecting the brain, spine, and spinal cord,” according to the FDA press release. The Seattle Times reported that folic acid is “cheap, safe and stable in grain products” and could help reduce birth defects, such as spina bifida and anencephaly.

Corn-masa flour isn’t the first product to be fortified with folic acid. According to NPR, folic acid was required to be in “bread, pasta and breakfast cereals” and since then, the number of babies born in the U.S. with neutral-tubes has decreased by about 1,300 babies a year, or 35 percent.

Many groups were supportive of the choice to add folic acid, including the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), the National Council of LA Raza and the Spina Bifida Association, according to the The Seattle Times.

These same groups first rallied to get folic acid in corn-masa flour products in 2012. They petitioned the FDA four years ago, according to NPR.

The fortified corn-masa flour with this vitamin added will be available next September, according to Felipe Rubio, a Gruma company spokesman, The Seattle Times reported.