California Bill Would Mandate Folic Acid Fortification in Corn Masa Flour

A California bill would make it mandatory that, beginning January 1, 2026, corn masa flour manufacturers add folic acid to the product sold in grocery stores in the state.

Joaquin Arambula, Assemblyman for California’s 31st District, is the author of bill AB1830, which argues that daily consumption of folic acid helps reduce by more than 50% the risk for babies to suffer from neural tube defects (NTDs), which are severe congenital disabilities that occur in the early stages of pregnancy.

He notes that Latino communities face a disproportionately higher risk of neural tube defects, according to medical studies, but do not include enough folic acid in their food.

In 1998, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) mandated folic acid fortification of all fortified cereal products to provide the consumer with a baseline level of folic acid, resulting in a 35% decrease in NTDs.

However, while the U.S. diet tends to be largely wheat-based, many households of families from Central and South America rely on corn masa flour for tortillas and arepas as a staple food.

Without justification, the FDA omitted corn masa flour from the 1998 mandate.

Related Article: How to Make Corn Flour

It was only in 2016 that the FDA approved folic acid fortification of corn masa flour voluntarily.

AB1830 highlights that by leaving it up to manufacturers to decide whether to add the nutrient, only 10 percent of corn masa flour products are fortified with folic acid in the United States.

Therefore, this bill believes that mandating folic acid fortification of corn masa flour can reduce the rate of NTDs, saving lives and saving on medical costs.

If the California Assembly enacts the bill, beginning January 1, 2026, manufacturers will be required to add folic acid to their product at a level not to exceed 0.7 milligrams of folic acid per pound of corn masa flour.

In addition, they must include a folic acid claim on the nutrition label by applicable federal law, including, but not limited to, Section 101.9 of Title 21 of the Code of Federal Regulations.

Recently, U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services Xavier Becerra held a roundtable discussion with representatives from Bunge, the Food Industry Association (FMI), Kroger, the Latino Restaurant Association, Ole Mexican Foods, the Tortilla Industry Association, and Walmart to share updates on their efforts to make fortified corn masa flour products more widely available.

Industry leaders also discussed their challenges, particularly in educating the public about the health benefits of these products.

Secretary Becerra urged corn masa flour manufacturers to increase their efforts to promote consumption of the folic acid-fortified product and expressed his commitment to supporting consumer and supplier education on this issue.