Over 99% of British households buy bread and one quarter of all groceries in the four biggest UK supermarkets contain flour.
Bread is an important food source for those with young families and anyone who is struggling with the cost of living.
The governments throughout the UK announced in September 2021 to go ahead with arrangements to require that folic acid is added to non-wholemeal wheat flour. The intention of the measure is to help prevent neural tube defects in foetuses.
A consultation on proposed amendments to the Bread and Flour Regulations 1998 has been launched across the UK.
Geoff Ogle, Chief Executive Officer at Food Standards Scotland, explained:
“This consultation marks an important stage in the process of ensuring that the regulations covering bread and flour in Scotland, and the rest of the UK, are fit for purpose and, critically, support public health.
“A key part of this consultation is the addition of folic acid to help prevent foetal neural tube defects. There is strong evidence that many such defects can be prevented by women increasing their intake of folic acid before conception and during the first 12 weeks of pregnancy.
“This consultation gives the public and stakeholders an opportunity to comment on all aspects of the proposed amendments to help shape the policy across the four nations.”
The 12-week consultation is being led by Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra), in collaboration with The Department for Health and Social Care (DHSC), Food Standards Scotland (FSS) and the Food Standards Agency (FSA) in Wales and Northern Ireland (NI).
It seeks views on proposals to make adjustments to the nutrients currently added to non-wholemeal wheat flour, and the addition of folic acid.
The addition of folic acid to help reduce the incidence of foetal neural tube defects follows a previous consultation and an agreement by the Scottish Government, UK Government and devolved administrations in Wales and Northern Ireland, to proceed with its mandatory fortification.
Minister for Public Health in the Scottish Government , Maree Todd said:
“Scottish Ministers have long advocated mandatory folic acid fortification of flour as the best way to reduce the risk of potentially life-threatening spinal conditions in babies.
“Women who are pregnant or who are planning a pregnancy are advised to take folic acid supplements however, more than half of pregnancies are unplanned so fortification is an important measure which will help to raise folate levels and reduce the risk of neural tube defects.
“The measure would also help ensure that we reach women in areas of deprivation – where folic intake is lowest.
“This consultation is a further step towards achieving this commitment of mandatory flour fortification.”
You can find out more about the details of the consultation and take part by visiting the Defra website. The consultation closes on 23 November.
The purpose of the consultation is to ensure that the Bread and Flour Regulations are fit for purpose and support UK industry, while protecting consumers. The objectives of the consultation are to: Understand the preferences and views from interested parties on the policy proposals presented. Assess whether the new proposals are suitable and reflective of the needs of UK industry, consumers and enforcement authorities. Explore any unintended consequences of the new proposals that have not been considered. Amending the Bread and Flour Regulations 1998 and the Bread and Flour Regulations (Northern Ireland) 1998 DEFRA