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Folic Acid: Children and Pregnant Women

Volume 640: debated on Tuesday 8 May 2018

17. What assessment he has made of the potential merits of flour fortified with folic acid for children and pregnant women. (905175)

The Government are looking at existing pre and post-conception health advice, including the use of folic acid supplements, which are recommended to help reduce the risks of neural tube defects in unborn children. We are carefully considering the recommendations in the Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition report on folic acid, and the Government will set out their position in due course.

I thank the Minister for that answer, but the UK female diet leaves blood folate levels below World Health Organisation targets, and it was recommended back in 1991 that folic acid should be put into supplements and that flour should be fortified. There are 80 countries around the world where that is happening, and it is reducing cases of spina bifida and other serious illnesses by up to 50%. Will the Minister work with the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs to look once again at the opportunities for fortifying flour with folic acid?

I can confirm that we will continue to look at that. The hon. Lady is right that a large number of countries fortify flour with folic acid, but the UK and other EU countries do not. We have advice that if the intake of folic acid exceeds given levels, that can also bring health problems, but we will continue to look at it.