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Compulsory Fortification of Flour with Folic Acid campaign

flour in bowl

On 20th September 2021 it was announced by the UK government that all four nations will move ahead with the mandatory fortification of non-wholemeal flour with folic acid in an aim to reduce the number of pregnancies affected by neural tube defects.

This comes almost 2 years after a public consultation on the matter and 30 years after the publication of Professor Sir Nicholas Wald’s research into folic acid fortification.

The purpose of mandatory fortification with folic acid is to reduce the number of Neural Tube Defects (NTD). The Scientific Advisory Committee Nutrition (SACN) estimated that in Scotland circa 50 pregnancies are affected by Neural Tube Defects each year.

  • There is very clear evidence that folic acid can help to reduce the number of pregnancies affected by neural tube defects, of which spina bifida is the most common.
  • Evidence suggests that women are still not taking folic acid supplements or have a diet sufficient to raise the blood folate levels required to support a possible reduction in a pregnancy affected by a neural tube defect (NTD).
  • The latest UK statistics reveal that 91% of women, of childbearing age, have a folate concentration level lower that the threshold for the avoidance of NTD's.

By fortifying flour at source with folic acid, it will be reintroducing vitamins lost during the milling process and will help to ensure that all woman of child bearing age, who are sexually active, are getting an increased level of folate into their systems. This will ensure that the risk of spina bifida will be reduced in both planned and unplanned pregnancies.

Andrew H D Wynd MBE, Chief Executive of Spina Bifida Hydrocephalus Scotland said:

“For 30 years, Spina Bifida Hydrocephalus Scotland has campaigned for folic acid to be added to flour and we are delighted that these efforts have resulted in a decision which will ensure life-changing results for so many parents and children.

“Adding the B vitamin to flour can give women and their unborn children the best possible opportunities for healthy outcomes. In other countries, folic acid fortification has reduced the number of pregnancies affected by neural tube defects, in particular spina bifida, by up to 70%.

“This is a momentous moment, and we will continue to work with and advise relevant bodies moving forward.”

Whilst this a very positive step forward, SBH Scotland continue to recommend that all females of child bearing age continue to increase their natural folate (the natural form of folic acid) intake through their daily diet and take a daily supplement.

Family Planning: A daily 0.4 mg (400 microgram) folic acid supplement should be taken at least 3 months prior to conception until the 12th week of pregnancy. You should also eat more foods containing folate. Around 50% of pregnancies are unplanned therefore a daily supplement is recommended for all females of child bearing age.

For certain groups of women an increased 5mg dose is recommended as they may have a higher risk of having a baby with these problems. Visit our Family Planning page for more details.

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