Delays in fortifying bread with folic acid blamed on devolved elections

Don't miss a thing

Plans to prevent harm to 400 babies a year by adding folic acid to bread flour are being delayed by devolved elections, a minister has said.

Ministers announced in September last year that the Government would require folic acid to be added to non-wholemeal flour products in order to prevent life-threatening spinal conditions in babies.

Scientists understand that extra folic acid in the diet of expectant mothers helps to avoid neural tube defects in their babies.

In the House of Lords, the Government faced calls to act quickly on the proposals, with ministers claiming that a “whole UK” approach was being held up by local elections in Northern Ireland, where health is a devolved matter.

Health minister Lord Kamall told peers: “Substantial progress has been made since September 2021, including working with the devolved administrations to establish a cross-industry bread and flour technical working group engaging stakeholders to move forward with the regulation review.

“Proposed changes are being finalised and impacts assessed by a whole UK working group for consultation once the Northern Ireland Assembly elections have been concluded.”

Labour peer Lord Rooker had earlier called on the Government to commit to “using the best possible science” in its plans.

North south Dadvide

Liberal Democrat peer Baroness Brinton said: “The continuing consequences of ministers not introducing the new legislation means that around 430 children will be born in the UK with spina bifida each year until folic acid is added to bread flour.

“What will the minister, not his officials, say to the families of these babies to explain why this just wasn’t urgent enough to put into legislation despite the Government’s decision to do so and despite elections?”

Lib Dem peer Baroness Walmsley said Covid had seen major changes to health policy introduced quickly, and asked: “Why cannot – in the light of the strength of evidence we already have – cannot the Government make a similarly urgent decision on this issue in order to save harm to 400 babies a year?”

Lord Kamall replied: “We all want to save harm to 400 babies a year, indeed we want to save harm to more babies, but the issue is we want to do it in a proper way.”

The minister said consideration still needed to be given to what was the correct amount of folic acid to be added to flour.

Since the Second World War, flour has been fortified with calcium, iron, niacin and thiamin during milling.

Eighty countries, including Australia, New Zealand and Canada, already add folic acid to staple food products to help reduce neural tube defects.


What do you think about adding folic acid to bread?  Let us know your thoughts in the comment section below.

Don't miss a thing

More from Dadsnet...


Submit a Comment

Enjoying Dadsnet?

Become a member for FREE!

Simply enter your email below to receive exclusive updates and content.

Success! Check your inbox as you'll receive an email from us shortly.