The Scottish government has backed mandatory fortification of flour, but industry association Scottish Bakers had said folic acid is a medical issue, not a bakery one. 

In January it was announced that Scotland was considering introducing mandatory fortification of flour with folic acid in an effort to reduce the number of children born with birth defects.

Scotland’s public health minister Maureen Watt said: “Our consistent position is that UK-wide mandatory fortification of flour is the best way to reduce neural tube defects. However, despite repeated requests it’s clear that the UK government has no intention of doing so at this time.

“I have therefore asked Food Standards Scotland (FSS) to provide some detailed advice on how we could do this on a Scotland-only basis. This advice will then be used to allow us to make a decision on what our next steps should be.”

She added that there were too many babies being born in Scotland with spina bifida, and that this was particularly prevalent in more deprived communities. She asserted that folic acid was “tasteless, entirely safe within recommended intake levels and is already included in many foods like breakfast cereals”.

However, in response, Scottish Bakers made the following statement: “The baking industry is clear that this is a medical issue, not a bakery one.

“In saying that, a Scotland-only decision could have major implications on the food and bakery sector. If Scotland goes down this route, it could make life difficult for the bakery sector as a whole across the UK and globally, with food products one of Scotland’s major exports.”

Reviewing the implications

Scottish Bakers said that as the Scotland-only change was first raised in January, it was still reviewing the full implications, but, as a trade association, it would welcome the opportunity to work with FSS and the health minister to shape how the decision would work in practice.