In Parliament today I renewed calls on the UK Government to fortify flour products with folic acid, a public health measure which experts suggest could reduce the risks of children being born with spinal defects. In my Business Question in the Commons, I highlighted the experience of nine year old Caldicot resident Sara Walbyoff.
I said: “My young constituent Sara Walbyoff from Caldicot lives with a rare form of spina bifida and this week has been meeting with Olympians and Paralympians at Great Ormond Street Hospital to talk about her experience of living with the condition. Sara’s family supports the campaign of Shine, the spina bifida charity, to fortify flour products with folic acid, which the Government have been consulting on now for two years. So please can the Government announce that they will do it?”
Responding for the government, Leader of the House of Commons Jacob Rees-Mogg MP said “I am grateful to the hon. Lady for raising this important issue and I wish Sara well. The campaign is an important one. I will pass on the hon. Lady’s comments to the Health Secretary. The question of compulsory medication is always a difficult and sensitive one, so it is not an issue that is easy to answer straightforwardly.”
Folic Acid is recommended by NICE as a supplement to be taken by women prior to and during pregnancy, as clinical evidence shows it helps to prevent the incidence of life-threatening and seriously debilitating Neural Tube Defects, including Spina Bifida. Over 80 countries across the world, including the USA and Canada, have acted on this evidence to introduce folic acid into all flour and related products.
The UK Department of Health have still not responded to a Government consultation on the fortification of flour with folic acid which closed in September 2019. In July I tabled a written question to the Government chasing up the response to the consultation. The written reply from Health Minister Jo Churchill MP read: “We will provide further updates on the response after the summer recess.”