DUP MP Nigel Dodds has welcomed the start of formal consultation on proposals for the mandatory fortification of flour with folic acid in a bid to cut birth defects.
Mr Dodds, whose eight-year-old son Andrew had spina bifida and passed away in 1998, has been a long-term supporter of the proposal, saying it is the “most effective way of increasing folic acid intake across the population.”
The consultation, which commenced today, is being conducted on a UK-wide basis and is available on the gov.uk website under the ‘Consultations’ section.
Welcoming the start of the formal consultation process, Mr Dodds, who is co-chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Folic Acid Fortification, said: “It is widely recognised that taking the B vitamin folic acid during pregnancy can help prevent certain brain and spine birth defects, known as neural tube defects (NTDs).
“The most effective way of increasing intake across the population is through the fortification of flour with folic acid, which has been shown to have no side effects.”
The North Belfast MP added: “Since folic acid fortification was introduced in the USA in 1998, it is estimated that around 1,300 babies are born each year without an NTD who might otherwise have been affected.
“As co-chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Folic Acid Fortification at Westminster, I warmly welcome that formal statutory consultation is now getting under way.”
According to the gov.uk website, the public’s views are being sought on the proposal to make it mandatory for flour millers to add folic acid to flour.
It said the move should help reduce the number of babies born with birth defects of the brain, spine or spinal cord.
Indeed, experts predict that around 200 birth defects a year could be prevented.
Public health minister Seema Kennedy said the simple measure of adding folic acid to flour would help spare hundreds of families from the devastation of a birth defect diagnosis.
“Women from the poorest areas are less likely to take folic acid supplements and it is right that we do all we can to protect the most vulnerable in society,” she added.
The consultation period will close on September 9.