Folic acid is to be added to UK flour to help prevent spinal birth defects in babies, the government will announce.
Women are advised to take the B vitamin - which can guard against spina bifida in unborn babies - before and during pregnancy, but many do not. It is thought that adding folic acid to flour could prevent up to 200 birth defects a year.
Mandatory fortification - which the government ran a public consultation on in 2019 - would see everybody who ate foods such as bread getting more folic acid in their diets.
Neural tube defects, such as spina bifida (abnormal development of the spine) and anencephaly, a life-limiting condition which affects the brain, affect about 1,000 pregnancies per year in the UK. Many babies diagnosed with spina bifida survive into adulthood, but will experience life-long impairment.
Kate Steele, chief executive of Shine, a charity providing specialist support for people affected by spina bifida and hydrocephalus and which has campaigned for mandatory fortification of flour for more than 30 years, said she was "delighted" by the decision.
"In its simplest terms, the step will reduce the numbers of families who face the devastating news that their baby has anencephaly and will not survive," she said. "It will also prevent some babies being affected by spina bifida, which can result in complex physical impairments and poor health."
Source: BBC News, 20 September 2021
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