Folic acid update

Folic acid update for new and emerging policy pages

Folic acid will be added to flour across the UK to reduce the risk of neural tube defects in foetuses, which can happen in early stages of pregnancies when additional folate is needed.

This follows consultation with industry, stakeholders and the public, and will mean the addition of folic acid to flour, helping to avoid around 200 neural tube defects each year.

Wholemeal flour and gluten free foods are not subject to mandatory fortification and, these products are not in the initial scope of this policy.

Women trying to become pregnant are recommended to take folic acid supplements to increase folate levels, but with over 50% of pregnancies in the UK unplanned, and may not know they need folic acid supplements until a pregnancy is confirmed, so this action is being taken to increase folic acid intake.

Flour has been fortified during milling since the Second World War, with calcium, iron, niacin and thiamin to help the nation’s health.

The announcement joins 80 countries, such as Australia, New Zealand and Canada, who are already adding folic acid to staple food products to help reduce neural tube defects such as spina bifida.

This public health decision is not anticipated to require major overhaul for industrial-scale flour producers, but folic acid will need to be added to the labelling of all foods made with flour – as is the case with other fortification.

A four nation review of Bread and Flour Regulations is being undertaken by officials in Defra, Food Standards Agency, and Food Standards Scotland. It is anticipated that a UK decision on the Mandatory Fortification of Flour with folic acid would be included in this review.