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Folic acid Fortification F

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UK to fortify wheat flour in United Kingdom by Vaughn Entwistle, Managing Editor, Milling & Grain

fter years of consideration and debate, the United Kingdom is now set to require folic acid fortification in wheat flour. The medical profession has long called for the introduction of this form of fortification, saying that it could reduce the incidence of conditions caused by abnormal development of the neural tube, including brain, spine or spinal column birth defects. The two most common NTDs are spina bifida and anencephaly. NTDs form in the first few weeks of pregnancy, often before a woman even knows she is pregnant.

Folic acid fortification

Most flour in the US and Canada has been fortified with folic acid (which is also known as vitamin B9) since the 1990s. The US was the first country to require mandatory folic acid fortification of enriched grain products (bread, cereals, pasta and rice). The regulations were introduced in 1998 and resulted in a 36 percent reduction in NTD (Neural Tube Defects). Because NTDs in Hispanics are 21 percent higher than the rest of the population, the US FDA (Food & Drug Administration) recently announced a mandate to include folic acid fortification of corn masa flour, a staple of Hispanic cuisine. When fortification first began in Canada, neural tube defects – including spina bifada and anencephaly – halved. Fortification mandates in Costa Rica, Chile, and South Africa have yielded similar results.

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Worldwide adoption

Many post-Soviet countries have also embraced fortification, including Turkmenistan, Kyrgyzstan, and Uzbekistan, with other countries such as Tajikistan and Georgia now moving to also comply. In fact, more than 75 countries worldwide have implemented mandatory folic acid fortification of wheat products and yet, surprisingly, most EU countries (with, now, the UK being the exception) are resisting following this initiative. Australia has joined the list, while New Zealand initially agreed but has since continued debating the issue.

Anti-fortification critics

Of course, there is a degree of opposition to folic acid fortification, as raised by Robert Verkerk of the Alliance for Natural Health International (ANHI). While the organisation concedes the health benefits of folic acid, they claim that folic acid fortification is a double-edged sword. Their concerns centre upon the effects of over-dosing with folic acid, which can lead to increased incidences of cancer. While increased folate in diets, derived by eating leafy green vegetables, legumes and oranges, display the positive advantages of increased folates, the consumption of synthetic forms of folic acids, as created by vitamin companies for use in supplements, may increase cancer risk in those who are already consuming folates. The majority of EU countries have yet to require mandatory folic acid fortification citing that it is unnecessary given the typical European diet.

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MAR 2019 - Milling and Grain magazine  

MAR 2019 - Milling and Grain magazine  

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