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Flour should be folic acid fortified

The Food Standard Agency (FSA) has today recommended that flour be fortified with folic acid so that fewer babies suffer from neural tube defects (NTDs).

Scientists say folic acid is essential to the normal development of the spine and NTDs can be prevented if mothers-to-be eat a high level of folic acid while pregnant.

The FSA aims for an 11 to 18% reduction in the risk of NTD pregnancies and less than 5% of the population to have a lower than recommended folic acid intake.

The awareness group, Folic Acid Action (FAA), say that the FSA's recommendations are a step in the right direction but a sustained public health information campaign is also needed.

"The fortification of flour with folic acid will help protect many women from the risk of an NTD-affected pregnancy, which can have devastating effects," says Andrew Russell, chair of the FAA.

"We urge the government to introduce a public health campaign to inform everyone of the need of additional folic acid intake during pregnancy and that women planning a baby should take a folic acid supplement."

Russell adds that it would be "unethical" not to act on the scientific information that folic acid can protect a developing fetus against NTDs.

"At present there are no government leaflets available in print regarding folic acid requirements whilst planning a pregnancy," he says.  

"It is the government's duty of care to take on board the FSA's recommendations and educate women."

Folic Acid Action