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Spina Bifida Association, the National Council of La Raza, GRUMA and Wal-Mart Announce Unprecedented Effort to Fight Spina Bifida

LOS ANGELES, July 11, 2006 – The Spina Bifida Association (SBA), the National Council of La Raza (NCLR), Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. and GRUMA S.A. de C.V., announced today during NCLR’s 2006 Annual Conference their joint effort to help fight Spina Bifida. Through this 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.

The proactive efforts initiated by SBA, Assistant U.S. Surgeon General José Cordero, Wal-Mart, NCLR and GRUMA target the growing Hispanic community in the U.S., the highest risk group for Spina Bifida but the least likely to consume folic acid.  Imported corn flours – unlike most other flour and cereal products – are currently not required by law to be enriched with folic acid.

The joint initiative addresses a dietary staple that can help Latinas of childbearing age consume the daily recommended 400 micrograms of folic acid to help prevent Spina Bifida and other neural tube defects (NTDs). 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. 

“Folic acid can reduce the risk of Spina Bifida by as much as 70 percent, and Hispanics have the highest risk,” said Spina Bifida Foundation President Harold (Hal) Pote. “The overall prevalence of Spina Bifida has decreased by 33 percent since the U.S. started to require that all U.S. grain – wheat, rice and corn products – must include folic acid if they use the term ‘enriched’ on the packaging.” Pote’s nephew was born with Spina Bifida, the most common, permanently disabling birth defect in the U.S., affecting more than 70,000 men, women, adolescents, and children.

"We applaud the efforts being made to provide and supply corn flour fortified with folic acid in the United States," said Dr. José Cordero, Assistant Surgeon General and director of the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Center on Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities. "Since fortification of most wheat flour began in 1998, about 1,000 babies are born free from Spina Bifida and other neural tube defects each year. Expanding fortification to corn flour will help protect the lives of even more babies."
 
“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. “Wal-Mart is proud to be part of this joint effort to help improve the health of the Hispanic community.”
 
“We are pleased to play such an integral part in NCLR’s and SBA’s quest to promote health benefits to the community,” said Jairo Senise, President and CEO of GRUMA. “We are committed to our consumers and to delivering nutritious products that benefit the health of our community."

“The best way to ensure women take folic acid every day is to fortify the most common food products,” said NCLR President and CEO Janet Murguía. “GRUMA’s and Wal-Mart’s efforts will offer a huge opportunity to put folic acid into the diets of millions of Hispanic women who may not otherwise consume it.”

The impact of this joint effort is enormous. Each year, approximately 3,000 pregnancies are affected by Spina Bifida or another NTD; of these, about 850 are among Hispanics.  This leads to 200 more births of Latino children with NTDs than would occur if Latino rates were brought down to the national average. NCLR estimates that Wal-Mart’s and GRUMA’s efforts, combined with other measures, could result in the births of about 200 healthier Latino babies each year.

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About the Spina Bifida Association
Founded in 1973, the Spina Bifida Association (SBA) is the only national voluntary health agency working exclusively for people with Spina Bifida and their families through research, advocacy, education and service. Telephone: (202) 944-3285 / (800) 621-3141. Website: www.sbaa.org.

About GRUMA
GRUMA, S.A. de C.V., is one of the world’s leading tortilla and corn flour producers. GRUMA was founded in 1949 and is engaged primarily in the production, marketing, distribution, and sale of tortillas, corn flour, and wheat flour. With leading brands in most of its markets, GRUMA has operations in the United States, Europe, Mexico, Central America, and Venezuela and exports to around 50 countries worldwide. GRUMA is headquartered in Monterrey, Mexico, and has more than 16,582 employees and 84 plants.  Website: www.gruma.com/vEsp/
 
About the National Council of La Raza
Founded in 1968, the National Council of La Raza (NCLR) is the largest Latino civil rights and advocacy organization in the U.S. that works to improve opportunities for Hispanic Americans.  Telephone: (202) 785-1670. Website: www.nclr.org.

About Wal-Mart
Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. operates Wal-Mart discount stores, supercenters, Neighborhood Markets and SAM’S CLUB locations in the United States.  The company has operations in Argentina, Brazil, Canada, China, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Germany, Guatemala, Honduras, Japan, Mexico, Nicaragua, Puerto Rico and the United Kingdom.  The company’s securities are listed on the New York Stock Exchange and NYSE Arca, formerly the Pacific Stock Exchange, under the symbol WMT.  More information about Wal-Mart can be found by visiting www.walmartfacts.com.  Online merchandise sales are available at www.walmart.com.