Diet and Nutrition Survey sparks folic acid debate again

By Michelle Perrett

- Last updated on GMT

Lack of folates can cause neural tube defects
Lack of folates can cause neural tube defects
There has been a new push calling for flour to be fortified with folic acid, following the publication of the latest National Diet and Nutrition Survey.

It revealed that folate levels have continued to fall across the UK population. The lack of folates can cause anaemia as well as neural tube defects (NTDs), such as anencephaly and spina bifida.

The results of the report has put pressure on the Government to consider making it mandatory to add folic acid to flour. In the UK, flour is already mandatorily fortified with other B vitamins (thiamin and niacin), as well as with iron and calcium.

Mandatory

Food Standards Scotland (FSS) has called for mandatory fortification of flour with folic acid on a UK-wide basis to help address this concerning drop in folate levels.

The new results from this survey provide confirmation that folate levels are dropping across the population. Over 90% of women of childbearing age in the UK now have a red blood cell folate concentration below the threshold, indicating a higher risk of their babies being born with NTDs,” ​said a spokesman.

“FSS maintains its call for mandatory fortification of flour with folic acid on a UK-wide basis to help address this concerning drop in folate levels,”

Happy

Gordon Polson, director of the Federation of Bakers said that the sector would be “very happy” to discuss the issue with Government.

“The folic acid issue has been rumbling around for many years,” ​he said.

“We have always taken the view that the decision to fortify has to be a medical decision and not one taken by the industry​.

In January, the failure to fortify flour with folic acid was called a “missed opportunity”​ and a “tragedy”​ in a report published in Public Health Reviews.

Researchers said that adding folic acid to flour could help prevent NTDs. It also called for government action as fortification of flour with folic acid has already been implemented in 81 countries.

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