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Folic acid and neural tube defects - a time for change

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There has been a lengthy consultation by the Department of Health and Social Care who sought input and comments from industry, stakeholders and the public on whether millers should be required, by law, to add folic acid to flour.

Following the consultation the government has announced that folic acid will be added to non-wholemeal wheat flour at source, across the UK, in an attempt to help prevent life-threatening spinal conditions in babies.

This mandatory fortification has the intention of helping to raise people’s levels of folate (Vitamin B9) to help reduce the number of babies born with neural tube defects. It is said to help avoid around 200 neural tube defects per year which is around 20% of the annual UK total.

The neural tube forms the early part of the brain and spine of the baby within the first 12 weeks of pregnancy. A defect in the neural tube can result in spinal conditions such as spina bifida or anencephaly.

This plan has already been previously trialled and rolled out successfully in a number of countries such as Australia, New Zealand and Canada.

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