Govt moves to consult on mandatory folic acid addition to flour to decrease birth defects

11th Jan 2019 - Rachael Adams

This week in the House of Lords the Government confirmed they will be launching a  UK-wide consultation on the mandatory fortification of flour with folic acid to prevent serious birth defects, but did not give a specific launch date.

Evidence has been put forward to the Government that adding folic acid to flour could help to prevent foetal abnormalities. A host of government, NHS and advisory bodies support fortification, which already happens in more than 80 countries, including the United States.

Taking enough folic acid in pregnancy has been estimated to reduce by as much as 70 per cent the risk of neural tube defects (NTD). It is estimated that two women a day in the UK have an abortion because doctors have identified an NTD and two children a week are born with an NTD, often spina bifida, which in some cases can necessitate the use of a wheelchair.

Lord Balfe pressed the Government to ensure the consultation is about how to implement the procedure, not about the benefits of adding folic acid to flour, which has already been examined.

CARE supports this measure and urges the Government to push forward with its consultation.

Dr Alison Tedstone, Chief Nutritionist at Public Health England, said: “Three-quarters of 16- to 49-year-old women have folic acid levels below the new World Health Organization recommendation for women entering pregnancy. Fortifying flour with folic acid is an effective and safe measure to reduce the number of pregnancies affected by neural tube defects.”


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