The UK Government and the devolved nations have confirmed after a consultation earlier this year that folic acid will be added to non-wholemeal wheat flour across the UK to help prevent life-threatening spinal conditions in babies. Adding folic acid will mean foods made with flour, such as bread, will actively help avoid around 200 neural tube defects each year – around 20% of the annual UK total.
Non-wholemeal flour is already an established vehicle for fortification in the UK and the costs of fortification to the industry are expected to be minimal. The addition of folic acid to food has been a successful public health policy in a number of countries worldwide such as Australia, New Zealand and Canada, resulting in falls in neural tube defects.
A 4-nation review of the UK’s Bread and Flour Regulations is now being undertaken by officials in Defra, the Department of Health and Social Care, Food Standards Agency and Food Standards Scotland. The implementation of the UK decision on the mandatory fortification of flour with folic acid will be included in this review.
Wholemeal flour and gluten-free foods will not be subject to mandatory fortification and these products are not in the initial scope of the new policy.
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