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Compulsory Fortification of Flour with Folic Acid campaign

SBH Scotland has welcomed scientists' recommendations for the compulsory fortification of white flour with folic acid and have been campaigning for UK residents to lobby their MPs to add their support to the campaign.

Back in May 2007, the Food Standards Agency (FSA) Board agreed unanimously that 'mandatory fortification' with folic acid should be introduced. This means that it would be compulsory to add folic acid to either bread or flour.

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. It is estimated that every day in the UK two babies are being conceived with a NTD daily.

The FSA also wants to introduce controls on voluntary fortification (when manufacturers choose to add folic acid to foods) and advice for the public on supplements containing folic acid.

One step closer to reducing spina bifida affected pregnancies in Scotland.

There is very clear evidence that folic acid reduces the number of pregnancies affected by neural tube defects of which spina bifida is the most severe, however evidence also suggests that women are still not taking folic acid supplements as a prevention. By fortifying flour at source with folic acid, it will help ensure that all woman of child bearing age who are sexually active, are getting an increased level of folic acid into their systems. This will ensure that the risk of spina bifida will be reduced in both planned and unplanned pregnancies.

2016 has been a big year in the progression of our folic acid campaign and we're delighted that Scottish Government are moving forward with plans to fortify flour in Scotland. We received the following statement from the Scottish Public Health Minister Aileen Campbell in September:

“We remain convinced that fortifying flour with folic acid will reduce the number of babies who are born with neural tube defects like spina bifida. As part of our plans for taking this forward we are exploring the best way for fortifying flour effectively, through Food Standards Scotland, as well as carrying out an industry-wide consultation.

She continues, “We are disappointed that, despite repeated lobbying from a number of sources, the UK Government have confirmed they will not progress with fortification at a UK level. Our plans for folic acid fortification in Scotland are supported by Northern Ireland and Wales.”

Andrew H D Wynd MBE, Chief Executive for SBH Scotland responded,

“As a charity we have long advocated for folic acid fortification in flour and we’re encouraged that Food Standards Scotland are now researching the impact of fortification so that Scottish Government can develop an implementation plan.

“We know previous research on folic acid fortification in other countries has shown up to 70% reductions in pregnancies with neural tube defects and we look forward to reading Food Standards Scotland’s findings.

“We were disheartened earlier this year when plans for implementation in England were firmly halted but folic acid fortification remains particularly relevant in Scotland as more children are born with spina bifida in Scotland than anywhere else in the UK."

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