Shine news

Fortification - Shine Celebrates a Step in the Right Direction

20th September 2021


Shine – the charity that provides specialist support for anyone living in England, Wales and Northern Ireland with spina bifida and / or hydrocephalus – is celebrating today, after a government announcement that folic acid will be added to non wholemeal flour in the UK as standard. 

The announcement comes after years of campaigning by Shine and is backed by long-standing research that shows increasing folic acid intake prior to conception reduces the chances of a Neural Tube Defect (NTD), such as spina bifida or anencephaly.  

It will bring the UK into line with over 80 countries around the world who already fortify food. The USA and Canada have fortified for 20 years and have seen a staggering reduction – in some areas by as much as 50% - in pregnancies affected by NTDs. 

Shine’s CEO, Kate Steele, says: “Although we firmly believe that all types of flour should have been included in the mandate, Shine is delighted by the Government’s decision to support mandatory fortification of the most commonly consumed flour in the UK with folic acid – a move we’ve campaigned for over many years”.  

“In its simplest terms, the step will reduce the numbers of families who face the devastating news that their baby has anencephaly,  and will not survive. It will also prevent some babies being affected by spina bifida, which can result in complex physical impairments and poor health.  

“It’s over 20 years since the first countries adopted this important public health measure, and started to benefit from a significant reduction in the incidence of pregnancies affected by neural tube defects. Now, at long last, people in the UK will share at least some of that advantage.” 

Gill Yaz, Shine’s Health Development Lead, says: “This is such a positive step change in improving public health across the UK for so many, now and in the future. It really is something to celebrate!” 

And the benefits are not exclusive to expectant parents and their unborn children. Men are also often low in folate, and many teenagers are clinically deficient in folate, risking their long-term health and increasing their risk of dementia, depression, and anaemia. 

Gill continues: “Shine will continue to advocate that all women who might become pregnant should take a daily supplement of folic acid, whether or not they are trying for a baby.  Mandatory fortification of white flour, coupled with the recommended supplement of 400mcg of folic acid at least 8 weeks before becoming pregnant, will mean a lower likelihood of an unborn baby being affected by spina bifida or anencephaly.”     

Shine remains committed to continued campaigning so that fortification of all flour is made mandatory.  

Related Stories

Donate Become a member