There have been further hints the government will announce the mandatory fortification of flour, following a debate in the House of Lords yesterday.
Earl Howe, a health minister in the Lords, came under pressure from the opposition to confirm the government’s position, during questions yesterday. Shadow Health Minister Lord Hunt of Kings Heath said: “We are going off on a very long Easter recess and joy would be unconfined if you told us now what the government has agreed to. Why don’t you come clean on it?”
Howe told peers the government had been waiting for “delayed” information on the “folate status” of the population from the National Diet and Nutrition Survey, but would press ahead and make a decision on the issue by Easter.
Experts claim fortifying flour with folic acid could prevent 300 babies a year developing spina bifida and other birth defects.
Labour’s Lord Rooker, a leading supporter of compulsory fortification and a former chairman of the Food Standards Agency, urged the government not to wait any longer.
He said that, on average in England and Wales, “there are 13 pregnancies terminated every week due to neural tube defects and three live births with spina bifida and other conditions, two-thirds of which tragedies could be avoided by fortification”.
Here is Lord Rooker arguing the case for fortification at an earlier debate: