Folic acid has been proven to work effectively in reducing the incidence of severe birth defects, which is why it is playing such an important role in a new set of recommendations by the Food Safety Authority of Ireland’s (FSAI).
This week, the FSAI released a new report, produced by its Scientific Committee, on new approaches to boost intake of folic acid among women of child-bearing age in the Republic of Ireland, thus reducing the risk of developing Neural Tube Defects (NTDs) in their pregnancies.
Given how our levels of NTDs such an anencephaly and spina bifida are among the highest in the world, the report’s comprehensive update on folic acid nutrition is of incredible significance.
With the intake of folic acid before conception and during the early stages of pregnancy known to prevent up to 70% of NTDs, it’s important to ensure that women throughout the country are hitting their recommended daily intake.
With the previous recommendation standing at 400 micrograms of folic acid per day – whether you are planning to get pregnant or not, this has been supplemented with the following recommendations from the FSAI:
1. Mandatory fortification + Voluntary fortification + Advice on supplements
The FSAI reports that the ‘mandatory fortification’ of bread or flour in Ireland to provide about 150µg of folic acid per day in women of child-bearing age could reduce the prevalence of NTDs by approximately 30%. This would require legislation.
They recommend for this ‘mandatory fortification’ to be accompanied by advice to all women of child-bearing age (who are capable of becoming pregnant) to take an additional 400µg folic acid daily as a food supplement.
‘Voluntary fortification’ of foods with folic acid would continue.
2. Voluntary fortification + Advice in supplements
In this second option, the FSAI advises the continuation of the current policy advising all women of child-bearing age (who are capable of becoming pregnant) to take an additional 400µg folic acid daily as a food supplement.
Voluntary fortification of foods with folic acid would continue, and there is potential to improve its effectiveness by providing guidance on voluntary fortification of selected foods with folic acid by manufacturers, e.g., with a voluntary labelling scheme.
If you would like more information about the FSAI’s recommendations, check out the full report through this link www.fsai.ie.