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RCOG/FSRH joint statement on Government consultation on fortifying flour with folic acid to tackle birth defects

News 23 October 2018

The Government will consult on fortifying flour with folic acid to prevent birth defects, Public Health Minister Steve Brine has announced today.

The consultation, which will be launched in early 2019, will consider the evidence around folic acid fortification as well as the practicality and safety of the approach.  Women who are trying to become pregnant are advised to take a daily supplement of 400 micrograms of folic acid before they conceive and during the first 12 weeks of pregnancy.

The plans to fortify flour with folic acid are backed by evidence that this would increase the folic acid levels of women with otherwise low intake who may become pregnant.  This proposal already has the support of the UK Chief Medical Officers and the Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition.  

Commenting in response, Dr Alison Wright, Consultant Obstetrician and Gynaecologist and Vice President for the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG), said:

“The RCOG has long supported calls to fortify flour with folic acid across the UK, as a public health measure to prevent neural tube defects in babies. We will continue to work together with politicians and charities to achieve this.

“There are approximately 1,000 diagnoses of neural tube defects in utero in the UK, such as anencephaly and spina bifida per year, 85% of which currently result in an abortion.

“The evidence is clear that fortification will prevent around half of these neural tube defects.

“Fortifying flour with folic acid is a simple, safe and evidence-based measure that will reach women who don’t receive enough folic acid through their diet, as well as those who may not have planned their pregnancy. This is a real opportunity to improve outcomes for families and society as a whole.”

Dr Asha Kasliwal, President of the Faculty of Sexual and Reproductive Healthcare (FSRH), said:

“We are pleased that Public Health Minister Steve Brine has today announced that the Government will consult on the mandatory fortification of flour with folic acid.

FSRH alongside other colleagues has long called on the Government to introduce this simple yet highly-effective measure to prevent neural tube defects in babies and improve the long-term health of the population.

Currently, many women of childbearing age are not receiving enough folic acid from their diets, and we know that almost half of pregnancies are unplanned. Folic acid fortification will help to ensure that pregnant women will have higher chances of delivering a healthy baby.”

Ends

Note to Editors

For media enquiries, please contact the RCOG press office on 020 7045 6773 or email pressoffice@rcog.org.uk and/or FSRH on 02037945309 or email externalaffairsofficer@fsrh.org

The 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.

About FSRH
The Faculty of Sexual and Reproductive Healthcare (FSRH) is the largest UK professional membership organisation working at the heart of sexual and reproductive health (SRH), supporting healthcare professionals to deliver high quality care. It works with its 15,000 members, to shape sexual reproductive health for all. It produces evidence-based clinical guidance, standards, training, qualifications and research into SRH. It also delivers conferences and publishes the journal BMJ Sexual & Reproductive Health in partnership with the BMJ. For more information please visit: www.fsrh.org