Wal-Mart, Tortilla Supplier, Others Fight Spina Bifida

BENTONVILLE, Ark. -- Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. is joining forces with the Spina Bifida Association (SBA), the National Council of La Raza (NCLR), and GRUMA S.A. de C.V., a corn flour and tortilla supplier, to help fight Spina Bifida, said the partners yesterday during NCLR's 2006 Annual Conference in Los Angeles.

Through the joint effort, GRUMA, one of the world's largest producers of corn flour and tortillas, has begun researching and conducting product testing with the goal of enriching its corn products with folic acid in the U.S. by the end of 2006. This initiative has the potential to reduce the incidence of Spina Bifida among all babies by 70 percent by helping increase the intake of this nutrient among women, according to research cited by the company.

The initiative is targeting the growing Hispanic community in the U.S., the highest risk group for Spina Bifida but the least likely to consume folic acid. Research indicates that Hispanic women in the U.S. have from 1.5 to 2 times higher risk of delivering babies with NTDs than non-Hispanic whites.

Imported corn flours -- unlike most other flour and cereal products -- are currently not required by law to be enriched with folic acid. Latinas of childbearing age are encouraged to consume 400 micrograms of folic acid daily to help prevent Spina Bifida and other neural tube defects (NTDs).

"When we learned through NCLR about the higher rates of Spina Bifida in the Hispanic community and how we could help make a difference, we made it a priority to work with our main supplier of corn products, GRUMA, to address this issue," said Wal-Mart vice chairman John Menzer in a statement.
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