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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, for a long time, been campaigning for Scotland and/or the UK to fortify.

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 wheat 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.

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 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 prior to conception and in November 2017 statistics from the NDNS RP show that 81% of women, of childbearing age, in Scotland had a folate concentration level lower that the threshold for the avoidance of NTD's.

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 folate into their systems. This will ensure that the risk of spina bifida will be reduced in both planned and unplanned pregnancies.

In August 2017, Food Standards Scotland (FSS) announced that fortifying flour in Scotland alone is not practical or cost effective and that any strategy would have to be implemented UK wide.

On 1st December 2017, the Scottish and Welsh Governments have now written a joint letter to the UK Health Secretary, Jeremy Hunt, urging him to take action and introduce mandatory fortification of flour with folic acid on a UK wide basis.

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 Aileen Campbell and Vaughan Gething have jointly written to Mr Hunt.

“We know previous research on folic acid fortification in other countries has shown up to 70% reductions in pregnancies with neural tube defects and this issue remains particularly relevant in Scotland as more children are born with spina bifida in Scotland than anywhere else in the UK."

Watch out for more about our campaign in 2018. We'll be asking for public support once again in lobbying their local and national politicians.

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