New policy to fortify flour with folic acid
The government looks set to introduce mandatory fortification of flour with folic acid to help prevent neural tube defects, such as spina bifida, according to reports in the media today (15 October).
The policy will bring the UK in line with many other countries, including the US and Canada, that already fortify their flour with folic acid.
RCM professional policy advisor Clare Livingstone said it was a welcome announcement as the RCM has campaigned for this with other organisations for a long time.
She added: ‘Many pregnancies are not planned, meaning many women will not have taken folic acid around the time of conception and very early in their pregnancy. This is when folic acid is most effective and that is why this announcement – if correct – is so important.
‘This will significantly help to reduce the number of fetal anomalies related to folic acid deficiency. This means fewer babies will be born with neural tube defects, and the sooner this is done, the sooner this will start to happen.
‘We urge the government to introduce this as soon as possible.’
A Department of Health and Social care spokesperson said that ministers are considering expert advice and will respond in due course.
Back in February 2018 the RCM reported on a study, which revealed the benefits of fortification, and experts urged the government to respond.
Even with fortification of folic acid, it is still advised that women should take folic acid supplements to achieve a greater level of protection than that afforded by fortification alone.
Currently, in the UK, white flour is already fortified with iron, calcium and other B vitamins (niacin and thiamin).