Today’s open meeting of the FSA Board gave the Agency the go-ahead to prepare plans to add folic acid to some food, to make sure the number of babies born with neural tube defects (NTDs) is
reduced.

Last month the Food Standards Agency’s Board agreed unanimously that folic acid should be added to a food to help prevent NTDs, which can result in miscarriage, neonatal death or lifelong
disability.

At today’s open meeting, the Board discussed the practicalities of implementing mandatory fortification and controlling the voluntary addition of folic acid to products, such as breakfast
cereals and spreads, to prevent over-consumption by some groups.

It gave the FSA a clear framework in which to work, to deliver a balance of benefits:

● reduce the number of NTD-affected pregnancies by 11% to 18% (that is, by 77 to 162) and reduce the numbers of people consuming too little folate from
13.3 million to 5.6 million without increasing the number of people with intakes above the upper limit for folic acid
In doing so, the Agency should also:

● provide a degree of consumer choice

● consider the impact of mandatory fortification on industry while ensuring that public health takes priority

● ensure products are labelled

The Board had already agreed that there should be clearer advice to those planning a pregnancy to take supplements.

The recommendation package will shortly be made to UK health ministers.

FSA officials will take forward implementation, involving a range of interested parties, in order to achieve the desired outcomes. The FSA’s Board will be kept up to date on progress.

FSA Chair Deirdre Hutton said: ‘Having made our decision in principle last month, we have had a comprehensive discussion today about the practicalities. I think it is clear where the
responsibilities now lie and it is for Agency officials to take forward the implentation of this package with industry and other stakeholders.

‘This recommendation will prevent many birth defects and will have wider health benefits for the rest of the population.’

www.food.gov.uk