In defence of pure bread and strong All Blacks

Alf’s lobbying for the good folk of Eketahuna to continue getting their daily bread free of folic acid obviously was influential.

He is confident the All Blacks, too, will benefit from his continued campaigning to keep our bread pure.

Today he is cheered to learn that outrageous rules forcing bakers to add folic acid to our bread could be scrapped within months of coming into force – but only if the Government secures a review.

To get the review (thanks to the mire Labour’s Annette King dragged us into) we need Australian agreement.

Is this agreement likely?

Alf strongly suspects we have been subjected to an Aussie plot to nobble the All Blacks by force-feeding us (with King’s apparent connivance) on bread laced with folic acid.

Nah, he has no evidence. His suspicions are based on instincts sharpened by several decades on this planet.

Those instincts tell him this folic acid stuff will enfeeble future generations of Kiwi sport people, ensuring Aussie success in all future trans-Tasman encounters.

But let’s look on the bright side. The Nats at least are doing their best to pull us out of the mire.

By doing this we are doing our bit to maintain the robust good health of the All Blacks (although there’s not much we can do about the bloody coach except maybe slip folic acid into his beer).

Food Safety Minister Kate Wilkinson said yesterday that she could reverse the 2007 decision to make folic acid mandatory in most bread from September regardless of the outcome of the review.

But there is a catch: folic acid fortification was agreed under the trans-Tasman food safety treaty and Australian agreement is needed for any review.

That is unlikely before the next ministerial meeting in October, a month after the requirement takes effect.

Accordingly, New Zealand will be lobbying for support ahead of the summit (Alf is preparing to pitch in on this). If agreed, the review could be completed by January.

Wilkinson reckons New Zealand then would be free to take a fresh look at folic acid in bread.

“If the review is in place [completed], then at that stage we think we have the option to opt out, whatever the review says.

“My thoughts at the moment are that I would rather have fortification on a voluntary basis, thereby giving New Zealanders a choice.”

A bit of background information from Stuff tells us folic acid prevents some birth defects.

Mandatory fortification with folic acid for all bread except organic and unleavened was agreed by Labour’s food safety minister, Annette King, to prevent neural birth defects such as spina bifida.

But the move has met stiff resistance after research found folic acid could be an aggravating factor in prostate and other cancers.

In other words, King wanted to increase Alf’s risk of being snuffed by prostate cancer to prevent a few neural birth defects.

More important, of course, she would have increased the prostate cancer risk of every bloke in the country. This obviously includes the All Blacks (although after recent performances we might wonder about some of the buggers).

Then there’s the matter of money. Bakers and shopkeepers tell us it will be costly to implement the mandatory mass medication endorsed by King, and a woman would need 11 slices of bread a day to get enough folic acid to protect against birth defects.

Fair to say, Ms Wilkinson tells us the science around the cancer risk is not robust, but she shares concerns about the possible cumulative effect over several years.

“By reviewing it in four months’ time, or at the very latest two years when the standard is due for review anyway … that cumulative effect won’t have caused any food safety issues.”

When there’s a food issue on the bubble, you can be sure the grizzle-guts Greens food safety spokeswoman Sue Kedgley is not far away.

She has popped up to say Ms Wilkinson’s insistence that New Zealand needs Australian permission to review what’s in our tucker means we have lost sovereignty over the issue.

Alf fears this might be so.

But that’s because of what King has done, not what we Nats have done.

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