Experts urge for flour to be fortified with folic acid

Published on: 20/04/2018

A recent study has urged for flour producers to fortify flour with folic acid to protect babies from neural tube defects such as spina bifida and anencephaly.  White flour in the UK is currently fortified with calcium, iron and other B-vitamins (niacin and thiamin) and millers are willing to add folic acid too.

Folic acid supplements are recommended daily for women who could become pregnant, but a large proportion do not take them, the number is particularly low in young mothers and ethnic minorities. Currently, there is a guideline for upper limits of folic acid which has led to a reluctance to fortify flour.  However, it has been suggested that the studies these upper limits are based on could be flawed and the upper limit of 1mg/day is unnecessary.

This latest study re-analysed previous data and found no link between folic acid dosage and neurological symptoms, highlighting no medical or scientific reason to delay fortification of flour in the UK and other countries that have not yet adopted this preventative measure.

Mark Kilby, Professor of Fetal Medicine and spokesperson for the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG), said:

“The RCOG has long supported fortification of flour with folic acid as a public health measure to prevent neural tube defects in babies. This simple measure will reach women most at risk in our society who have poor dietary and socioeconomic status, as well as those women who may not have planned their pregnancy. We continue to recommend that all women take 400 micrograms of folic acid daily whilst attempting to conceive, until their 12th week of pregnancy.

For more on this story see RCM article here  and the RCOG response here.