Folic acid, or vitamin B9, is essential to the development of a healthy baby during early pregnancy and a deficiency can lead to neural tube defects.
Around half of all pregnancies in the UK are unplanned and evidence suggests that even for planned pregnancies, many women do not consume folic acid, particularly among those who have poor diets and those from lower socioeconomic groups.
The Department of Health and Social Care and the Devolved Administrations are now inviting views on the UK-wide proposal as part of a 12-week public consultation.
Dr Alison Wright, Consultant Obstetrician and Vice President of the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, said:
“We are delighted with the Government’s announcement to consult on fortifying flour with folic acid to prevent neural tube defects in babies.
"In the UK, there are around 1,000 diagnoses of neural tube defects, such as anencephaly and spina bifida every year. Current evidence indicates that fortification will prevent around half of these neural tube defects.
“Fortifying flour with folic acid is simple, safe and evidence-based and will ensure all women receive adequate folic acid through their diet.
“We have been working closely with Shine and other organisations in calling for fortification. It is definitely time the UK joins other countries in implementing this important measure that will significantly improve outcomes for women and families."
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RCOG statement on a study which shows there is no need for an upper limit of folate intake
The RCOG continues to support preconception supplementation of 400 micrograms of folic acid daily for women wishing to become pregnant until their 12th week of pregnancy, as recommended in the NICE clinical guidelines Antenatal care and Maternal and child nutrition.
This is also a recommendation of the World Health Organization (WHO).
About the RCOG
The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists is a medical charity that champions the provision of high-quality women’s healthcare in the UK and beyond. It is dedicated to encouraging the study and advancing the science and practice of obstetrics and gynaecology. It does this through postgraduate medical education and training and the publication of clinical guidelines and reports on aspects of the specialty and service provision.