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

Posted: September 27th 2021


A very interesting example of public health policy in subtle action. This story tells us:

Folic acid is to be added to UK flour to help prevent spinal birth defects in babies, the government has announced.

Women are advised to take the B vitamin - which can guard against spina bifida in unborn babies - before and during pregnancy, but many do not.

It is thought that adding folic acid to flour could prevent up to 200 birth defects a year.

The new rules will only apply to non-wholemeal wheat flour, with gluten-free foods and wholemeal flour exempt.

Mandatory fortification - which the government ran a public consultation on in 2019 - will see everybody who eats foods such as bread getting more folic acid in their diets.

Neural tube defects, such as spina bifida (abnormal development of the spine) and anencephaly, a life-limiting condition which affects the brain, affect about 1,000 pregnancies per year in the UK.

Many babies diagnosed with spina bifida survive into adulthood, but will experience life-long impairment.

Women are advised to take 400 micrograms of folic acid a day for at least a month before conception and up to the 12th week of pregnancy.