Following years of campaigns to fortify flour with folic acid, the UK government has decided to introduce a policy for the mandatory fortification of flour. This is in a bid to address the high numbers of babies born with birth defects each year, making the UK the country with the highest rate of neural tube defects (NTDs) in Europe.
Folic acid is one of the B vitamins and is found in small amounts in foods such as leafy green vegetables e.g. cabbage and spinach, broccoli, peas, brussels sprouts and breakfast cereals fortified with folic acid. Folic acid is used by the body to form healthy red blood cells and also prevents the development of neural tube defects such as spina bifida in unborn babies.
For most of the population, a balanced diet with plenty of variety is sufficient to provide a good intake of folic acid. However, for women planning a pregnancy, the Department of Health recommends a daily supplement of 400 micrograms while those with an established risk of having a baby with neural tube defects should take 5 milligrams per day.