I just don’t see why medicating an entire population to prevent a handful of spina bifida cases, which will only work if women eat far more bread than they do, is a good idea. It’s such a grossly untargeted and unsophisticated approach.
Saying ‘well many women don’t get enough folic acid and many pregnancies are unplanned so let’s give it to them some other way’ might be well and good, if people ate bread in the quantities that are necessary for this dosing to work and it was proven to be safe. But they don’t, and it isn’t. Given that, why are we, against the public will, carrying out a population-wide health experiment by injecting yet another chemical into our diets?
Why not just let bakers do what they propose, have lines of bread with folic acid and lines without? Women could be encouraged to take the folate bread but it wouldn’t be forced on everyone.
Frankly, this was a case where Labour got it badly wrong (and they’ll be kicking themselves for reconfirming that position last week). It displayed all the overbearing, we-know-best traits that their enemies have so successfully exploited in the past with their ‘nanny state’ rhetoric.
But there’s no use blaming the last government. The Key government is the one with the responsibility to act now. It simply beggars belief to hear Food Safety Minister Kate Wilkinson on one hand saying she doesn’t want folic acid to be mandatory in bread and on the other hand attacking the concerns of those who want her to stop it happening.
It’s just not credible to say that there’s nothing she and Key can do. They have had 7 months and have a couple more in which they could get an exemption from the Aussies or, if needed, pass a simple piece of legislation overruling the standard. A least have this ministerial review Wilkinson is promising before the standard comes into effect.
Instead, Key and Wilkinson are pulling the possum-in-the-headlights imitation and blaming Labour. It’s a pattern that’s becoming all too familiar from a government that is failing to govern.