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Are Scotland taking the next step?

Folic acid in flour - Ministers ask for advice on next steps.

Public Health Minister Maureen Watt has written to Food Standards Scotland for advice on how Scotland could fortify flour with folic acid.

The advice will be used to help ministers decide how to pursue the policy on a Scotland only basis. The Scottish Government’s preference is for a UK wide solution, but the UK Government has so far failed to commit to the measure despite repeated requests.

The Welsh and Northern Irish governments have also publically backed the fortification of flour.

The Scottish Government believes mandatory fortification of flour with folic acid is the best way to reduce neural tube defects like spina bifida in unborn babies. Folate levels are low across the UK by international standards – particularly so in Scotland.

Ms Watt wrote again to UK Public Health Minister Jane Ellison on November 11 last year to ask the UK Government to consider mandatory fortification. However, she again failed to commit to the step.

Ms Watt said:

“Our consistent position is that UK-wide mandatory fortification of flour is the best way to reduce neural tube defects. However, despite repeated requests it’s clear that the UK Government has no intention of doing so at this time.

“I have therefore asked Food Standards Scotland to provide some detailed advice on how we could do this on a Scotland-only basis. This advice will then be used to allow us to make a decision on what our next steps should be.

“There are far too many babies being born with Spina Bifida in Scotland – particularly in our more deprived communities. Folic acid is tasteless, entirely safe within recommended intake levels and is already included in many foods like breakfast cereals.

“There are 78 countries around the world that already have mandatory fortification of flour. The USA has done it for the past eight years, with no adverse effects on health. By joining them we can help to save many families from the heartbreak of being told their baby has Spina Bifida.”

Ross Finnie, Chair of Food Standards Scotland said:

“As Scotland’s independent public food body, we will be happy to provide the Scottish Government with the advice that has been requested. Such advice will fit well with our statutory duty to improve the diet of the Scottish population. The advice we provide will enable the Scottish Government to determine the best way forward to reduce neural tube defects. In doing so, we will draw on the previous body of advice provided by the Food Standards Agency as well as taking account of any new evidence and advice from the Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition.”

Folic Acid Fortification Update

Spina Bifida Hydrocephalus Scotland (SBH Scotland) has long advocated folic acid fortification in flour. Our Chief Executive, Andrew H D Wynd, said, “We are happy to hear that Scottish Government are now urging UK Ministers to move the fortification process forward. The recent Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition (SACN) letter to Health Ministers highlighted serious concerns arising from the delay in fortifying flour so the UK need to be pushing for measures to be put into place to increase the folate status of women. In Scotland it is thought that nearly 50% of pregnancies are unplanned and mother’s to be will not have increased folic acid intake prior to conception. SBH Scotland believe that mandatory fortification will make a significant difference to the many planned and unplanned pregnancies diagnosed with Neural Tube Defects, of which spina bifida is the most common.”

He continues, “Additionally, if the mandatory fortification of flour with folic acid is not proceeding in the short term, then advice must be put in place to ensure that woman who are sexually active and of child bearing age are aware of the importance taking folic acid prior to conception and not once pregnancy is confirmed, which is the norm at present.”

SBH Scotland Folic Acid Campaign

Scotland specific issues…

Scotland has more live births per head of population with spina bifida than anywhere else in the UK. Each week in Scotland one pregnancy is affected by spina bifida and/or hydrocephalus. Possibly due to religious and cultural differences, only 50% of pregnancies are terminated in Scotland as compared with 80% in the rest of the UK.

Taking folic acid supplements, at the correct recommended dose prior to conception, could prevent over 70% of these pregnancies from being affected and reduce both the number of those born with the condition and the number of pregnancies terminated.

Children born with spina bifida often have paralysis in the lower limbs, urological, neurological and orthopaedic problems which often become more significant throughout life. Fortification of flour would reduce the number of babies born with this life-long disability.

Parents in Scotland are offered impartial and non-judgmental advice by the SBH Scotland to enable them to make informed decisions about their pregnancy. Whatever the final decision, SBH Scotland will always be there for support and advice whenever needed. If you are affected by any of the issues associated with spina bifida or hydrocephalus, you can call the SBH Scotland Family Support Service helpline on 08459 11 11 12 or visit

Further details on Folic Acid

New vacancy for Family Support Worker

Spina Bifida Hydrocephalus Scotland are now recruiting for a new Family Support Worker to be part of their Stronger Links: Stronger Families Project.

The position is home based covering Edinburgh/Lothian/Fife/Borders


This post is funded by the Big Lottery Fund until September 2017.

For further details visit our vacancies page.

SBH Scotland launches yearlong campaign to mark 50th birthday

Specialist charity, Spina Bifida Hydrocephalus Scotland (SBH Scotland), formerly Scottish Spina Bifida Association, is celebrating its 50th year of support and advocacy for people across the country affected by these lifelong, complex conditions.

Spina Bifida Hydrocephalus Scotland was formed in 1965 by group of parents who each had a child with spina bifida and/or hydrocephalus. Now 50 years later, the charity support over 3,500 children, young people, adults, their family members and carers every year in Scotland whilst retaining their family orientated approach.

John Amabile enjoying the party

SBH Scotland celebrated their 50th birthday on Sunday 25 October which coincided with World Spina Bifida and Hydrocephalus Day, an international day to raise awareness of the conditions.

The event marks the launch of SBH Scotland’s ‘With A Little Help From Our Friends’ campaign, a yearlong anniversary appeal with a host of fundraising events and activities that supporters can take part in; all with the aim of raising £1 million to continue their full range of support. Past years have had month-long campaigns and the charity are hoping supporters will come together to develop innovative ways such as coffee mornings, comedy nights and duck races to raise funds to mark their 50th year.

Italian restaurant, Sarti, donates £1 from every bill to charity in October

Grazie Italia! Sarti supports Spina Bifida Hydrocephalus Scotland

Italian restaurant donates £1 from every bill to charity in October

Italian restaurant group Sarti is adding £1 to every check throughout the month of October to celebrate Spina Bifida Hydrocephalus Scotland’s 50th anniversary and raise vital funds to support the charity’s specialist services.

The restaurant will be asking customers to donate after dining at any of its three Glasgow locations, with donations going directly to Spina Bifida Hydrocephalus Scotland (SBH Scotland), formerly known as the Scottish Spina Bifida Association. Donations will help to provide critical support services across Scotland such as their national helpline, health check clinics, one-to-one support, social groups, advice and training.

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