After years of research, the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) will allow companies to add folic acid to corn tortillas. Folic acid is essential during the first month of a pregnancy because it helps prevent birth defects. Since the 1990s, it has been added to the grains we eat, but this latest push to add it to tortillas is a shoutout to the Mexican-American community specifically.
There’s no question that the tortilla is the ultimate Mexican food staple.
It’s used for everything, from tacos to enchiladas to even holding butter when you’re low on cash.
And they have proven to be so useful that astronauts use them to eat without making a mess.
Seven years ago, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released a study claiming that by simply adding folic acid to corn tortillas could help prevent birth defects within the Mexican-American community.
It might sound super lame, but this is big news for pregnant Mexican-American women. Adding this vitamin to a staple food can help prevent spina bifida, a pretty major birth defect.
Spina bifida causes the spine to never completely and properly form, leaving the baby with a huge cyst on the lower back filled with spinal cord and spinal fluid. Most spina bifida cases, which happen within the first month of pregnancy, can be resolved by surgically removing the cyst. In some cases, however, lifelong treatment is required.
So, why are they adding folic acid to the tortilla? Literally to help Mexican-American women.
The March of Dimes filed a petition in 2012 urging the FDA to add folic acid to corn tortillas because Mexican-Americans have the highest number of spina bifida cases when compared to the white and black communities. It worked.
Folic acid is a B vitamin that your body needs for cell growth and development.
You can find it in leafy greens, liver and kidneys. You can also consume it via grains (bread, instant oatmeal or pasta) that have the word “enriched” on the packaging. These are fortified with folic acid.
Since the 1990s, the US has been adding folic acid to grains but the tortilla was not that popular back then.
“There is no question that Hispanic women are having babies with spina bifida and anencephaly because the FDA isn’t putting folic acid in the flour,” Dr. Godfrey Oakley, a former director of the birth-defects division at the CDC, told Yakima Herald.
In a press release, the FDA gave tortilla manufacturers the green light to start adding folic acid immediately. ?
“Increased consumption of folic acid in enriched flour has been helpful in reducing the incidence of neural tube defects in the general population,”Susan Mayne, Ph.D., director of the FDA’s Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition, said in the statement. “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.”
So there you have it, folks. Tortillas are tasty AF, and soon they’ll also prevent birth defects!