Date Published: 12 December 2006

Food Standards Agency launches final consultation about increasing folate intake of young women

The Food Standards Agency (FSA) today launched a consultation setting out options for improving the intake of the vitamin folate for young women in order to reduce the number of neural tube defect (NTD) affected pregnancies in the UK.

This coincides with the publication today of the Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition's (SACN) final report on Folate and Disease Prevention in which SACN recommends the implementation of mandatory fortification of flour with folic acid in the UK.

In the Agency's 13-week consultation, four options are outlined for consideration and public response:

  1. to continue with the current policy of advising all women who are planning to get pregnant to take a 400 microgram folic acid supplement each day, prior to conception and until the 12th week of pregnancy
  2. to increase the effort to encourage young women to take folic acid supplements and to increase their consumption of folate-rich foods
  3. to encourage the food industry to fortify more foods with folic acid on a voluntary basis
  4. to recommend the mandatory fortification of bread or flour with folic acid

The FSA Board will consider SACN's report on Folate and Disease Prevention and the consultation feedback before providing advice to Health Ministers after the FSA's Board meeting in May 2007.

The Board will also have the opportunity to consider some consumer research exploring people's attitudes around some of the issues.

SACN's recommendation of implementing mandatory fortification has not changed since the issue was discussed at the FSA open Board meeting in April 2006. This recommendation has, however, been further informed by emerging scientific studies, data analysis and a rigorous exploration of the potential risks relating to increased intakes of folic acid.

Rosemary Hignett, Head of Nutrition at the Food Standards Agency, said:

" Taking action to improve the folate status of young women, in order to help prevent neural tube defects such as spina bifida occurring during pregnancy, is a particularly complex one.

_ Over the past few years this issue has raised many interesting and important issues. The Food Standards Agency is committed to policy-making that will benefit people's health and we do this on the basis of weighing up the evidence in relation to risks and benefits.

_ This consultation is an opportunity for consumers, industry, health charities and other stakeholders to express their views and opinions on this issue. "


Source: Food Standards Agency (FSA), UK.

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