Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs
Folic acid added to flour to prevent brain and spinal conditions in foetuses
- Also published by:
- Department of Health and Social Care
Folic acid to be added to non-wholemeal flour across the UK to help prevent life-threatening brain and spinal conditions in foetuses.
- Defra launches UK-wide consultation on the Bread and Flour Regulations on the amount of folic acid to be added to flour
- Under the government’s proposals, pregnancies affected by neural tube defects could fall by more than a fifth
The number of pregnancies affected by life-threatening issues such as spina bifida could fall by more than a fifth as the government moves one step closer to actively adding folic acid to non-wholemeal flour.
Following a consultation with industry and stakeholders on whether to add folic acid to non-wholemeal flour, a public health policy which has already been successful in Australia, New Zealand and Canada, today the government is consulting on its proposal to add 250 micrograms of folic acid per 100 grams of flour.
The proposal on the amount of folic acid to be added to flour is part of the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) consultation on the Bread and Flour Regulations, which aims to ensure the regulations are consistent with other food standards legislation.
Neural tube defects are a rare developmental condition which occurs very early in pregnancy and affects around 1,000 pregnancies each year in the UK. This occurs when the brain, spine, or spinal cord do not develop properly in the womb and can cause life-threatening health issues.
Women are advised to take a daily 400-microgram folic acid supplement before conceiving and up to the 12th week of pregnancy as it reduces the risk of neural tube defects affected pregnancies. However, as pregnancies may be unplanned or women in the first few weeks of pregnancy may not know they are pregnant, many women may be unaware of this recommendation.
Adding folic acid will mean foods made with flour, such as bread, will actively help avoid around 200 neural tube defects each year - around 20% of the annual UK total.
Defra Food Minister Victoria Prentis said:
It is vital that we consult on this issue to understand views on all of our proposed amendments to bread and flour regulations.
Folic acid fortification is an example of how we can ensure the public receive the nutrition we require through everyday food products.
The government’s Bread and Flour Regulations consultation proposes adding 250 micrograms of folic acid per 100 grams of non-wholemeal flour.
Minister for Public Health Maggie Throup said:
Neural tube defects can have a devastating impact on life expectancy and quality of life.
This simple step will ensure more women who might be pregnant, or who are trying to conceive, will have increased intakes of folic acid, leading to a large reduction in the number of foetuses affected by NTDs each year.
I want to encourage anyone with an interest in this issue to participate in the consultation and help us deliver life-saving changes.
The proposal forms part of a UK-wide consultation on the Bread and Flour Regulations which aims to support UK industry, help lead to improved public health outcomes, assist enforcement authorities and protect UK consumers. It will ensure the regulations are consistent with other food standards legislation, covering the specifications of vitamins and minerals added to foods.
The consultation opens on Thursday 1 September and closes on Wednesday 23 November. It is open to everyone and is available here: https://consult.defra.gov.uk/food-compositional-standards/bread-and-flour-consultation-2022
Latest News from
Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs
Funding for tree planting projects to honour Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth announced02/12/2022 16:05:00
New funding to plant trees in communities nationwide in honour of the late Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth has been announced by Forestry Minister Trudy Harrison.
Environment Secretary speech at CLA Business Conference02/12/2022 11:15:00
Environment Secretary Thérèse Coffey yesterday delivered a speech to the CLA Business Conference.
NDA announces £200,000 boost for Cumbria's Coastal Community Forest02/12/2022 09:05:00
As part of National Tree Week, the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA) has announced £200,000 of funding for England's newest Community Forest in Cumbria.
97% of English bathing waters meet required water quality standards30/11/2022 16:07:00
New statistics show the number of designated bathing waters meeting highest quality standard is the the most since 2015
Iconic Welsh Leeks to be protected30/11/2022 14:05:00
Anyone buying Welsh Leeks will be able to clearly see from the label if they are getting the ‘real thing’.
Water company fines to be channelled into environmental improvements30/11/2022 12:05:00
Money from fines will be ring-fenced for work to improve water quality
Plan now to avoid drought next summer, National Drought Group told30/11/2022 11:10:00
The latest National Drought Group meeting reiterates expectation that water companies start planning now to manage potentially significant impacts next year.
Funding boost for country’s woodlands and timber industry29/11/2022 14:20:00
£20 million funding will improve tree planting stocks, woodland resilience, domestic timber production and accelerate tree planting across England.