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16/06/2004: Health Minister's decision on the fortification of flour with folic acid

  • Document type:
  • Author:
    Melanie Johnson, MP, Parliamentary Under Secretary for Public Health
  • Published date:
    16 June 2004
  • Primary audience:
  • Publication format:
    Electronic only
  • Gateway reference:
  • Pages:
  • Copyright holder:
    Crown copyright

Announcement that Health Ministers have agreed with the Food Standards Agency's advice not to recommend mandatory fortification at present due to outstanding concerns about vitamin B12 deficiency.

In January 2000, the Committee on Medical Aspects of Food and Nutrition Policy (COMA) in their report on 'Folic Acid and the Prevention of Disease' concluded that fortification of wheat flour with folic acid would reduce the number of births affected by Neural Tube Defects (NTDs), the most common of which is spina bifida. The Food Standards Agency (FSA) and the Department of Health (DH) accepted this conclusion.

Health Departments and FSA jointly undertook a public consultation. The issue  was also considered at the stakeholders meeting in March 2002.

The FSA Board considered this issue and subsequently provided its advice to Health Ministers, who are responsible for making a decision.

The Health Ministers have agreed with FSA's advice and at present have decided not to proceed with the mandatory fortification of flour with folic acid due to outstanding concerns about vitamin B12 deficiency in older people.

The Ministers have asked the Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition (SACN) to consider the wider implications of folic acid fortification and any new evidence since the original COMA report including evidence on vitamin B12 deficiency in older people. This matter will then be reassessed following SACN's consideration.

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