Folic acid in flour action call to tackle birth defects

January 22, 2016   Folic Acid

BBC | Disability News | Source

BreadImage copyright PA

Welsh ministers are urging the UK government to approve the adding of folic acid to flour to reduce birth defects such as spina bifida.

Scotland is considering the move amid frustration at delays in a decision at Westminister.

The power is not devolved to Wales.

Government advisers have recommended adding folic acid to flour for 16 years but the UK Department of Health says it is still "considering the matter".

Since 1992 official advice has recommended women take folic acid supplements before pregnancy to reduce their risk of having a baby with a neural tube defect (NTD) - which involve defects of the brain, spine or spinal cord.

But experts have raised concerns that only a minority of women were taking such supplements, prompting calls to include folic acid in flour to boost its consumption.

Health benefits

Scottish Public Health Minister Maureen Watt said she was disappointed that there had been "no progress" at UK level on mandatory fortification of flour with folic acid.

"I, along with my counterparts in Wales and Northern Ireland, will consider how we might progress this should a decision not be forthcoming from the UK government," she said.

The Food and Drink Federation said manufacturers would prefer "a harmonised situation across the UK" rather than Scotland "going it alone".

A Welsh government spokesman said: "Although this is not a devolved matter, the Health Minister, along with his counterparts in Northern Ireland and Scotland, has already written to the Secretary of State for Health, Jeremy Hunt, to urge him to take action to secure the public health benefits to be derived from adding folic acid to flour."