Members of Congress Celebrate FDA Action to Reduce Birth Defects in the Hispanic Community
Washington, DC – Today, the Chairs of the Congressional Maternity Care Caucus, along with members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus and the Congressional Hispanic Conference, joined together to celebrate the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) announcement that it would allow the voluntary addition of folic acid to corn masa flour – a step proven to reduce often-deadly birth defects. Corn masa, or dough, is a staple in the Hispanic community, and is not currently fortified with folic acid. This past February, Representatives Raúl M.Grijalva (AZ-03), Lucille Roybal-Allard (CA-40), Jaime Herrera Beutler (WA-03), and Mario Diaz-Balart (FL-25) led a letter to the FDA urging them to permit the voluntary fortification of corn masa flour with folic acid. The letter, including a list of all 42 signers, can be found here.
The FDA’s announcement will allow manufacturers to voluntarily add up to 0.7 milligrams of folic acid per pound of corn masa flour, beginning on Friday, April 15, 2016. The FDA started allowing the fortification of wheat and other types of flour with folic acid in 1996, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have reported that since implementation, the rate of related birth defects across the United States has been reduced by 27 percent.
“I am glad to see the FDA acted decisively on our request to approve folic acid fortification of corn masa flour,”Congressman Grijalva said. “This action can have a dramatic impact on Latino populations who suffer disproportionately from the heartbreaking birth defects associated with low folic acid intake during pregnancy. This is an equity issue – ensuring all pregnant women have normal access to vital nutrients will save lives, and I am proud to see it become a reality.”
“This is a great victory for our community! I have spent years championing this cause and urging the federal government to support fortifying corn masa flour with folic acid, and I am thrilled that the FDA has finally taken this critical step to prevent birth defects in Latino families,”Congresswoman Roybal-Allard said. “Fortifying flour with folic acid has been proven to reduce birth defects such as spina bifida and anencephaly. Fortifying corn masa flour will extend these important health benefits deeper into our Latino communities. Thanks to the FDA’s action today, more pregnant Latinas will get the nutritional support they need, and more Latino newborns will be born healthy and able to reach their full potential.”
“I applaud the FDA’s swift decision to allow folic acid to be added to corn masa following our congressional letter,”Congresswoman Herrera Beutler said. “This will ensure that expectant mothers in Hispanic communities in Southwest Washington and throughout the country will receive a critical nutrient that has been proven to reduce birth defects.”
“I am pleased that the FDA has ruled in favor of this voluntary fortification,”Congressman Diaz-Balart said. “Corn masa is a staple in the diet of many Hispanic families, and this change in regulation will help reduce the risk of birth defects that result from low folic acid intake during pregnancy. This is a bipartisan issue that affects families across the country, and I am glad to have worked with my colleagues receive a positive outcome.”