Today, Tuesday 20th July 2021 marks 30 years since the UK Medical Research Council’s funded research was published, showing that supplementing the diets of women before, and during, the early stages of pregnancy with folic acid substantially reduced the chance of that pregnancy being affected by Neural Tube Defects (NTDs), such as spina bifida and anencephaly.
Spina Bifida Hydrocephalus (SBH) Scotland have long lobbied for the fortification of flour with folic acid and on this, the 30th anniversary of crucial research being published, we, alongside Shine, the spina bifida and hydrocephalus charity that works across England, Wales and Northern Ireland, have written to Ministers across the UK asking when an announcement on the 2019 UK Government consultation will be given.
Since the publication of this report in 1991, there have been ongoing recommendations for mandatory fortification of appropriate staple foodstuffs with folic acid. The Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition (SACN), has repeatedly recommended fortification of flour with folic acid. In 2017 Food Standards Scotland advised that fortification should be undertaken with a joint approach across the UK and following this a joint letter was sent from the Scottish and Welsh governments to the then UK Health Secretary, Jeremy Hunt, urging him to take action and introduce mandatory fortification of flour with folic acid on a UK wide basis.
A UK- Government consultation on mandatory fortification of flour with folic acid concluded in September 2019 and an announcement on the outcome has yet to be made.
The on-going delay in introducing this measure has led, and will continue to lead, to stillbirths, neonatal deaths, disability and avoidable terminations of pregnancy, as well as thousands of individuals facing a lifetime of complex and severe, yet avoidable, health and lifestyle challenges (which also incurs a massive financial implication on the already burdened NHS resources).
From September onwards, after parliamentary recess, SBH Scotland and SHINE will be supported by UK and Ireland’s medical royal colleges, doctors and medical students, dieticians and people whose lives have been affected by spina bifida and anencephaly in attempting to push this up the political agenda and would welcome any support you can give us in sharing our message across our social media channels.
The need for government action is long overdue. The continuous occurrence of preventable birth defects is a tragedy that should no longer be tolerated.
For further information or to discuss involvement in the fortification campaign please contact Clare Cogan Turner, Communications Manager via EMAIL
Find out more about our campaign to date.