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Folic acid to be added to UK flour to prevent birth defects

Posted: 20 September 2021 | | No comments yet

It’s hoped the fortification of flour in the UK will reduce neural tube defects among new born children as the UK follows the US and Australia in adopting the policy.

Ensuring a safe supply chain when producing gluten-free

Folic acid will be added to non-wholemeal flour in the UK to help prevent birth defects in the UK.

Women are advised to take vitamin B supplements during their pregnancy to avoid birth defects such as spina bifida, but many often do not.

Instead, it’s hoped that by adding folic acid to flour and therefore bread products will help avoid around 200 neural tube defects a year – around 20 percent of the annual UK total.

“Few things are as important as a baby’s health – and folic acid-fortified flour is a quick, simple win to enhance their development,” said Prime Minister Boris Johnson.

“This will give extra peace of mind to parents and families, as well as helping boost the health of adults across the country.”

This decision has been in the balance for some years now. As Michelle Roberts of the BBC reports, there had been concern that adding folic acid to the nation’s diet could cause other issues, such as masking a potential vitamin B12 deficiency in the elderly. Yet the UK Government has considered all of the information it has available and come to the conclusion that overall the policy will be beneficial. Gluten-free and wholemeal flours will not be included in the policy,

“We are committed to giving more children a healthy start in life. With the safe and taste-free folic acid baked into the national diet, hundreds more babies will be born healthy each year,” said Health Secretary Sajid Javid.

The mandatory fortification of flour with folic acid is nothing new in other parts of the world. The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved the policy back in 1998, while Australia adopted the same policy in 2009.

It’s a decision that has been well received by some – especially those supporting people affected by spina bifida and other neural tube defects.

“Mandatory fortification of flour with folic acid will improve public health for so many, now and in the future,” said Kate Steele Chief Executive of charity Shine.

“In its simplest terms, the step will reduce the numbers of families who face the devastating news that their baby has anencephaly and will not survive. It will also prevent some babies being affected by spina bifida, which can result in complex physical impairments and poor health. This is truly a momentous day.”

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