Experts Asked About Adding Folic Acid To Flour

The Scottish Government is seeking advice on how to pursue the policy of adding folic acid to flour on a Scotland-only basis.

Public Health Minister Maureen Watt said she was pursuing the issue despite the UK Government's failure to commit to the measure.

Scottish ministers believe the mandatory fortification of flour with folic acid would help to reduce neural tube defects such as spina bifida in unborn babies.

Folate levels are low across the UK by international standards, particularly so in Scotland.

Ms Watt said: ''Our consistent position is that UK-wide mandatory fortification of flour is the best way to reduce neural tube defects. However, despite repeated requests it's clear that the UK Government has no intention of doing so at this time.

''I have therefore asked Food Standards Scotland to provide some detailed advice on how we could do this on a Scotland-only basis. This advice will then be used to allow us to make a decision on what our next steps should be.

''There are far too many babies being born with spina bifida in Scotland - particularly in our more deprived communities. Folic acid is tasteless, entirely safe within recommended intake levels and is already included in many foods like breakfast cereals.

''There are 78 countries around the world that already have mandatory fortification of flour. The USA has done it for the past eight years, with no adverse effects on health. By joining them we can help to save many families from the heartbreak of being told their baby has spina bifida.''

Ross Finnie, chair of Food Standards Scotland, said: ``The advice we provide will enable the Scottish Government to determine the best way forward to reduce neural tube defects.

''In doing so, we will draw on the previous body of advice provided by the Food Standards Agency as well as taking account of any new evidence and advice from the scientific advisory committee on nutrition.''

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