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The government is currently consulting the United Kingdom on plans to add folic acid to flour to help prevent birth defects such as spina bifida.

Pregnant women are already advised to take folic acid, but many do not.

It is estimated that fortification of flour with folic acid could prevent up to 200 congenital anomalies a year.

The charity organization Shine, which has been campaigning for the move for 25 years, said it hoped it would not be 25 years before that happened.

  • Will folic acid be added to British flour one day?

It is advisable for women to take 400 micrograms of folic acid daily for at least a month before conception and up to the 12th week of pregnancy.

But about half of all pregnancies are unplanned and women are not always aware that they should take the supplement – or forget it.

Neural tube defects, such as spina bifida (abnormal development of the spine) and anencephaly, which affects the brain, affect about 1,000 pregnancies a year in the UK.

More than 40% of cases are fatal. Most babies who survive will need ongoing care.

Mandatory fortification would imply that anyone consuming foods such as bread would get more folic acid, but scientists have informed the government that the recommended level is safe.

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"Women in the poorest regions are less likely to take folic acid supplements and it is fair that we do everything we can to protect the most vulnerable in society," said the Minister of Public Health, Seema Kennedy.

"We all want to give our children the best possible start in life and a diagnosis of congenital anomaly is devastating for parents.

"The simple measure of adding folic acid to flour would help save hundreds of families from such a shocking event."

Kate Steele, CEO of Shine, said: "If this had been presented to all [25] Years ago, when the government's nutrition advisory committee made this recommendation, it is estimated that it could have prevented several thousand pregnancies in the UK from being affected by spina bifida or anencephaly.

"However, we are not looking for a pocket horse in our mouths and we are delighted that the government has launched this consultation and we only hope that it will not take 25 years for the mandatory fortification to be acidic. folate becomes a reality. "

More than 60 countries are already adding folic acid to flour. When Canada introduced mandatory fortification in the late 1990s, neural tube defects were halved. And when the same change was made in Australia, neural tube defects decreased by 14%.

The consultation in the United Kingdom will last 12 weeks. British wheat flour already contains the vitamins thiamine and niacin, as well as iron and calcium.

Good dietary sources of folic acid:

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  • spinach, kale, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, broccoli
  • beans and legumes (eg peas, horse beans)
  • yeast and beef extracts
  • orange juice and orange
  • wheat bran and other whole grain foods
  • poultry, pork, shellfish and liver
  • fortified foods (for example, some cereals for breakfast)

Source: British Dietetic Association