The authorisation of a health claim for folic acid has been approved, which will help dramatically reduce neural tube defects, say campaigners.
For the first time ever, supplement manufacturers will be able to state on their packaging that folic acid can help to reduce the primary risk factor associated with the development of Neural Tube Defects (NTDs) like spina bifida and anencephaly. The landmark claim came into effect on November 18.
The newly permitted health claim will mean that for the first time, manufacturers will be able to explain what folic acid actually does, and is seen as a significant step forward in raising awareness of the vital role of folic acid in reducing the risk of NTDs.
The team behind the submission of the claim, which was written by Dr Michele Sadler, of Rank Nutrition and Scientific Adviser to the Health Food Manufacturers’ Association (HFMA), included the charity Shine, The Proprietary Association of Great Britain (PAGB), the HFMA and The Council for Responsible Nutrition (CRN).
Shine’s Health Campaigns Officer, Martine Austin, commented: “If more women understood why it was so important to take folic acid, I am sure that we would see a huge increase in intake. Too many of the women that I speak to see it as something optional that they can take when they’re pregnant ‘because it’s good for the baby’, rather than something that’s essential prior to conception to help prevent some very serious consequences. The EU claim will help empower more women with this knowledge so that they are able to make fully informed choices.”
Shine went on to say that there was a need for women to be educated about taking folic acid correctly (ideally for three months prior to conception and for the first 12 weeks of pregnancy). If all women of childbearing age in the UK followed this advice, it would mean that up to 650 serious birth defects could be prevented each year.