Earlier this year the Committee on Medical Aspects of Food and Nutrition Policy (COMA) presented their report on the role of folic acid in preventing NTDs (neural tube defects) including spina bifida to the Health Departments. The report examined the scientific, medical and public health aspects of the fortification of flour with folic acid and concluded that:
The COMA report estimates that of 93 NTD affected births in England and Wales in 1998, 38 could have been prevented with the fortification of flour with folic acid at the above level.
The public consultation aims to gather wide ranging views from many organisations and the general public regarding the COMA recommendations. The consultation document sets out the scientific evidence, and raises issues surrounding the report such as technical feasibility, legislative issues and consumer choice. The document and the address to send responses is on the Department on Health and the Food Standard Agency websites (www.doh.gov.uk/folicacid and www.foodstandards.gov.uk).
The COMA report "Folic Acid and the prevention of disease" was published on 13th January and is available from the Stationery Office: ISBN 011 322304 8
Folates occur naturally in foods. Folic acid is an artificial form used in dietary supplements and for fortification of foods. It has the same vitamin function as natural folates and is better absorbed.