Folic acid in your bread, whether you like it or not? The Food Standards Agency (FSA) say yes.
The Food Standards Agency, as advised by their Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition, has written to Sir Liam Donaldson, the chief medical officer, to confirm their view that it should be mandatory for folic acid to be put into British bread.
This mass medication programme would be undertaken to reduce rates of Spina Bifida, a debilitating condition which develops in a baby during its mother’s pregnancy, as a result of shortage of Folate (vitamin B9) in the diet. Currently the annual incidence is around 1,000 cases in the UK annually, which the FSA reckons could be reduced to 350 cases.
If the Department for Health recommends legislation the UK could soon become the first European nation to follow the example of the USA and Canada. As with the mass fluoridation of water, this move to medicate without choice is controversial.
Because the body cannot store Folic Acid, those who argue in favour of the supplement point out the advantages of having the nutrient continuously available in the staple diet. Folic acid, along with other B-vitamins, is already found in a number of popular breakfast cereals.
However, critics point to the unknown effects of state-imposed Folic Acid over long periods. In a study last year, Prof Young-Im Kim of the University of Toronto highlighted increases in bowel cancer rates in USA and Canada, saying: “Excess folate, especially in the form of folic acid, can fuel lesion growth, accelerating progression into life-threatening cancers, because high levels of the vitamin make it easier for tumour cells to copy themselves.”
Natural sources of Folate include green leafy vegetables, beans and sunflower seeds.