The Department currently recommends that women trying to get pregnant should take a daily 400 microgram folic acid supplement from the time they stop using contraception until the 12th week of pregnancy. Women should also eat foods containing folate—the natural form of folic acid—such as green vegetables and brown rice as well as fortified bread and breakfast cereals. Folic acid helps prevent neural tube defects including spina bifida in the newborn.
The Food Standards Agency is currently undertaking a consultation exercise on the options for increasing the folate intake of young women to reduce the number of pregnancies affected by a neural tube defect. One of the four options being considered is the mandatory fortification of bread or flour with folic acid. The closing date for comments is 13 March 2007.