Adding folic acid to corn Masa flour: Partnering to improve pregnancy outcomes and reduce health disparities.Prev Med. 2018 01; 106:26-30.PM
Although strides have been made in preventing neural tube defects (NTDs), Hispanic women remain more likely to have a baby born with an NTD and less likely to know the benefits of, or consume, folic acid than women of other race/ethnic groups. In 1998, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) mandated that all enriched cereal grain products be fortified with folic acid; however, corn masa flour (CMF), used to make many corn products that are a diet staple of many Hispanic groups, was not included under this regulation. In 2006, a Working Group began a collaboration to address this disparity by pursuing a petition to FDA to allow folic acid to be added voluntarily to CMF. The petition process was a monumental effort that required collaboration and commitment by partners representing the affected population, manufacturers, scientists, and others. The petition was approved in 2016 and folic acid is now added to CMF products, with expected results of more women achieving the recommended daily folic acid intake, more infants born per year without an NTD, and millions of dollars in direct medical expenditures averted. This 10-year public-private partnership brought together diverse groups that traditionally have different goals. The Working Group continues to work toward ensuring that fortified CMF products are available to the consumer, with the end goal of achieving a reduction in NTD-affected pregnancies.