In June 2019, the UK Government issued a public consultation on the proposal to introduce mandatory fortification of non-wholemeal flour with folic acid to reduce neural tube defects; 53% of respondents agreed with the proposal; of those who agreed, 64% thought that all flour and other non-wheat products should be fortified.
In September 2021, the government and the devolved administrations announced their decision to proceed with the mandatory fortification of non-wholemeal wheat flour. However, some leading scientists believe that the fortification level proposed by government and currently under consideration is too low and will prevent only around 15-22% of neural tube defects. These scientists are concerned that the current proposals will leave us with avoidable deaths, therapeutic abortions, and lifelong disabilities in some babies who will still develop neural tube defects.
The SMC agreed to provide an opportunity for these leading scientists to express their concerns and put their scientific case for a higher level of fortification.
Prof Sir Nicholas Wald, Professor of Preventive Medicine, University College London (UCL)
Prof Neena Modi, Professor of Neonatal Medicine, Imperial College London, and President-Elect,
European Association of Perinatal Medicine
Prof Dame Lesley Regan, Professor of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, Imperial College’s St Mary’s Hospital Campus, and Honorary Consultant in Gynaecology, Imperial College NHS Trust
Prof Peter M Rothwell, Action Research Professor of Neurology, University of Oxford
This Briefing was accompanied by an SMC Roundup of comments.