It's hard to argue with grieving parents. They make successful lobbyists. Crippled Children's Society deserves applause for convincing the former Minister of Food Safety to change our bread standards by adding folic acid.

Why? Because a few hundred women in the first months of pregnancy run the terrible risk of exposing their babies to a condition known as NTD - neural tube defect - whereby the neural tube fails to close completely and babies are born with conditions such as spina bifida. Add synthetic folate to bread and around eight children a year can be saved from a lifetime of medical intervention and being confined to wheelchairs.

It sounds so easy and straightforward, so why the controversy? Why is National's Food Safety Minister, Kate Wilkinson, wavering? Has she been "got at" by the anti-fluoride nutters, who used to ring talkback (and possibly still do) convinced adding fluoride to water is a communist plot?

It was interesting to read the Herald article by former National Party darling Katherine Rich, taunting Wilkinson to remember her anti-nanny state pre-election policies.

And before sneering leftie bloggers let rip - yes, Rich is a friend of mine and no, I don't include her in the category of those who hire others to write an article in her name. Rich was one MP - with Rodney Hide - who knew how to write.

Rich wrote in her new role as chief executive of the New Zealand Food and Grocery Council, and as a lobbyist she speaks on behalf of the breadmakers who see themselves as kneaders, not mass medicators.

They are understandably nervous in this "not my fault" society. When this miracle vitamin for pregnant women turns out to have not-so-beneficial effects on other members of the population, who will we sue? The bakers?

Because there is a risk.

Accurately dosing bread is well nigh impossible, and a pregnant woman will have to eat about 11 slices a day to prevent NTD. Include the spreads and fillings and I see obesity.

Another worry is children may eat more than their recommended daily dose of folic acid, and that's not good. The New Zealand Food Safety Authority warns we won't know the effect of this for at least another generation, but studies are looking at links between excess folic acid and colon and prostate cancer.

Yes, it's inconclusive, and if I was pregnant right now I'd be down at the health shop buying folic acid tablets. So isn't that the answer?

It would be more effective, and cheaper, to simply provide free folate tablets for at-risk pregnant women who want them. Give them to midwives and GPs to hand out, if the Government is concerned, rather than take a scattergun approach through the bread chain. Personally I don't care about folic acid in bread because I bake my own, but I'm concerned about the wider issue.

This month, Dr Vincent St Aubyn Crump, an Auckland allergy specialist, reported a "dramatic increase" in allergic reactions to hair dyes, partly because younger people are using dyes. The main cause is a chemical called para-phenylenediamine (PPD), also found in henna tattoos, which is not banned in New Zealand.

Twenty-seven years ago I was trying to have my fourth baby. I was also having my hair dyed regularly. At the 20th week of pregnancy, my baby died in utero and I was induced to give birth. I was told it was "just one of those things".

The following year, exactly the same thing happened. The third year, ditto. Three dead babies, and I knew it was not "just one of those things", but no specialist could figure out why. My mother thought of the hair dyes and retrieved the packaging they contained PPD. I stopped dyeing my hair and 23 years later my fourth child is as large as life and twice as beautiful.

St Aubyn Crump told me this week there is still no conclusive research on the harmful effects of PPD on unborn babies, but there has been "concern over the years".

I could have tried to sue. I could have campaigned to ban certain hair dyes, using the little photo I treasure of one tiny baby boy, but hell happens.

I know hundreds of pregnant women dye their hair with no ill effects on their babies. Why should their pleasure be curtailed?