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Welsh and Scottish Governments back adding folic acid to flour

Humanists UK has welcomed announcement from the Welsh and Scottish Governments in support of adding folic acid to flour, in a move expected to save lives and lead to fewer cases of serious and fatal foetal abnormalities.

In response to a question from Wales Humanists patron Julie Morgan AM, the Welsh Government announced that it would support adding folic acid to flour, and will hold a consultation into folic acid fortification in early 2019. The Scottish Government has also announced similar plans.

This announcement follows the change in English public health policy made by the UK Government in October, a move which is expected to prevent hundreds of babies each year from being born with birth defects such as spina bifida and anencephaly. Humanists UK welcomed the decision at the time, which will help to improve the lives of countless women and their families.

Folic acid in flour reduces incidents of neural tube defects (NTD) like anencephaly, which is usually fatal in the womb or shortly after birth. Consequently, around 80% of women who receive such a diagnosis choose to terminate their pregnancy.

Until now, the onus was on women who were hoping to become or who were pregnant to take folic acid supplements in the UK, meaning that many women, including those on low incomes or who were not aware that they were pregnant, were not getting enough folic acid. Because of this, the UK is believed to have the highest rate of NTDs in Europe.

Previously, members of the All Party Parliamentary Humanist Group (APPHG) have supported the requirement for folic acid to be added to flour, including through APPHG member Lord Rooker’s Bread and Flour Regulations (Folic Acid) Bill in the House of Lords, which was proposed before the 2017 general election.

Humanists UK Campaigns Officer Rachel Taggart-Ryan said, ‘We welcome the Welsh and Scottish Government’s decision to follow the commitment made by the UK Government in October. This simple measure has the potential to save hundreds of lives every year in the UK and prevent much of the unnecessary suffering caused by neural tube defects. We look forward to the Government’s upcoming consultation on the issue in 2019 and hope it will bring about the change that mothers and their families so urgently need.’

Notes

For further comment or information, please contact Humanists UK Campaigns Officer Rachel Taggart-Ryan on rachel@humanism.org.uk or 0207 324 3065.

More information regarding our policy on public health issues can be found here: https://humanism.org.uk/campaigns/public-ethical-issues/homeopathy/

At Humanists UK, we advance free thinking and promote humanism to create a tolerant society where rational thinking and kindness prevail. Our work brings non-religious people together to develop their own views, helping people be happier and more fulfilled in the one life we have. Through our ceremonies, education services, and community and campaigning work, we strive to create a fair and equal society for all.

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