Challenges to Increase the Supply of Tortillas Fortified with Folic Acid

Improving the availability of folic acid-enriched foods is crucial to preventing neural tube defects, especially among babies born to Hispanic women. To this end, Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Xavier Becerra recently hosted a roundtable discussion with representatives of major U.S. corn masa flour manufacturers and distributors.

At the meeting, the group discussed strategies to improve the commercial availability of corn masa flour products fortified with folic acid and challenges to educate consumers.

Since 2016, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has authorized, but only voluntarily, the addition of folic acid to corn masa flour. However, a recent analysis by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) revealed that there has been no significant improvement in blood folate levels among Hispanic women of reproductive age. 

The result of the analysis is concerning, as Hispanic women are currently at the highest risk of having a baby affected by a neural tube defect, HHS said.

Challenges in Educating About Folic Acid Benefits

During the roundtable, representatives from Bunge, the Food Industry Association (FMI), Kroger, the Latino Restaurant Association, Ole Mexican Foods, the Tortilla Industry Association, and Walmart shared 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 consuming these products.

Secretary Becerra stressed the importance of fortifying corn masa flour with folic acid to address critical nutritional needs. He expressed his commitment to support consumer and supplier education on this issue.

Support from the Department of Health

HHS reported that it has undertaken several initiatives to improve the health conditions of the Hispanic community. These include reducing the cost of prescription drugs, providing Spanish-language services for crisis hotlines, launching a Spanish-language website for, and ensuring the immediate availability of COVID-19 vaccines and test kits. 

Related Article: Tortilla, Heritage of Hispanic Culture

In addition, HHS has developed the Food is Medicine initiative, which aims to provide consistent access to dietary and nutritional resources for communities nationwide.

HHS has a strong history of collaborating with Latino community leaders to address health issues and eliminate health disparities. 

One example of these collaborative efforts is the roundtable discussion with representatives of major corn masa flour manufacturers and distributors. 

HHS said that working together can significantly increase the availability and accessibility of folic acid-enriched corn masa flour products. 

The ultimate goal is to improve the health conditions of Hispanic women and their babies.