FDA has approved folic acid fortification of corn masa flour—allowing manufacturers to voluntarily add up to 0.7 milligrams of folic acid per pound of corn masa flour, consistent with the levels of certain other enriched cereal grains. Corn masa flour is a staple food for many Latin Americans and can be used to make foods such as tortillas, tortilla chips, tamales, taco shells, and corn chips.
Currently, manufacturers may use folic acid as an optional ingredient at specified levels in breakfast cereals and certain other foods, such as infant formula and medical foods, so that it is easier for people to get enough folic acid in their diets. Additionally, folic acid must be added to certain enriched grains and enriched grain products like breads, rolls, noodles and pasta. The March of Dimes Foundation, the American Academy of Pediatrics, and others submitted a food additive petition in 2012 to request the extension of voluntary fortification to corn masa flour to increase the folic acid intake for US women of childbearing age who regularly consume products made from corn masa flour as a staple in their diet.
“Increased consumption of folic acid in enriched flour has been helpful in reducing the incidence of neural tube defects in the general population,” says Susan Mayne, director of the FDA’s Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition. “Our analysis shows that adding folic acid to corn masa flour will help increase the consumption of folic acid by women who consume this flour as a staple in their diet.”
The FDA may approve the use of a food additive only after conducting a scientific safety review of the information provided in the petition to ensure that the additive is safe for the general population. Based on that data, FDA concluded that the petitioned addition of folic acid to corn masa flour at a level not to exceed 0.7 milligrams of folic acid per pound of corn masa flour is safe.