A new study is to be carried out in Ireland, by the privately funded Boyne Research Institute in Drogheda, to evaluate the likely impact of Ireland’s forthcoming programme to fortify flour with folic acid.

About one in 1,000 babies born annually in Ireland has a neural tube defect, one of the highest rates in Europe. The project will focus on families most likely to have children with this condition.

Last year, Ireland’s national committee on folic acid food fortification reported to the Minister for Health and Children, Mary Harney, that fortification should be made mandatory and this recommendation was accepted by government. Legislation still has to be prepared on behalf of the Food Safety Authority of Ireland, but is expec-ted to be in place in a year’s time.

Around 120ug of folic acid will be added to each 100g of most white, brown and wholemeal breads, but exceptions will be made for some minor breads and retail flour, in the interests of consumer choice. When adding folic acid becomes mandatory in Ireland next year, bakers will have to modify the baking process.