F How long has the Government, in both Scotland and the UK, been discussing this topic and what were some of the considerations evaluated?
The UK Government has consistently delayed introducing legislation on this issue since it was first raised by the Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition in 2007. The UK Government position was to await the outcome of the population blood folate status results. These were published on 20 March 2015. A decision was then delayed until parliament returned after the general election and we are still waiting. As part of their remit, Food Standards Scotland (FSS) is currently considering the scientific and regulatory aspects of fortification of flour with folic acid. Before FSS was created, the Food Standards Agency had considered this and provided advice to us in 2007 and 2014 in support of fortification with a view to reducing the risk of congenital neural tube defects.
There is always some resistance to the introduction of flour fortification. How have you addressed the most important ones of these? Why has there been a delay in reaching a decision on this issue? To maximise the impact of mandatory fortification, and in line with recommendations from SACN and Food Standards Scotland, we believe that a UK-wide approach would be most effective. Indeed, Wales and Northern Ireland have expressed their support. Unfortunately, the UK Government has consistently deferred their decision and in response to my latest letter, they have again refused to commit to mandatory fortification. With every delay more babies are put at risk, which is why we must act now.
Food fortification has been a contentious issue for some time, why is Scotland choosing to act now? And what would your advice be to other governments considering the introduction of flour and/or rice fortification? We have been pursuing a UK-wide approach as our preferred option. However, should the UK government decide not to act I, along with my counterparts in Wales and Northern Ireland, will consider how we might progress this. I believe there is strong evidence in favour of mandatory fortification.
"There are 78 countries around the world that already have mandatory fortification of flour. The USA has done it for the past eight years, with no adverse effects on health" The food and drink federation have said they believe most manufacturers would favour a harmonised approach across the UK on mandatory folic acid fortification, but with the UK seemingly ‘dragging its heels’ what do you think about this statement? – Is there time to wait for a nationwide decision?
It’s encouraging to see that the Food and Drink Federation want a UK-wide approach – we agree with them. We still believe that
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