It added bread is a major contributor to a healthy diet and already an important source of carbohydrate, fibre and nutrients like calcium, iron and B-vitamins.
Yesterday, public health minister Steve Brine said the consultation will launch in early 2019 to consider the evidence around folic acid fortification as well as the practicality and safety.
Evidence from the Scientific Advisory Committee of Nutrition (SACN) suggests that folic acid, taken by expectant mothers, can significantly reduce the risk of fetal abnormalities.
The move to fortify flour with folic acid – and thus the daily staple – is thought to be an effective way of reaching those with the lowest folate intakes, like younger women from deprived backgrounds.
Better be safe than sorry
“However, as with any intervention of this kind, we need to be certain it is also safe, and that means considering what the wider implications would be for the rest of the population who eat flour,” said chief medical office Professor Dame Sally Davies.
As such, the proposal will also consider if there are any risks to other members of the general public through the mass distribution of the fortified bread, such as possibly the diagnosis of conditions like pernicious anemia, which is a deficiency in the production of red blood cells.
The time is now right
Despite being petitioned by the UK health community for quite a while, the government has only now made the decision to move forward on the fortification.
“We have been listening closely to experts, health charities and medical professionals and have agreed that now is the right time to explore whether fortification in flour is the right approach for the UK,” said Brine.
“My priority is to make sure that if introduced, we are certain it is safe and beneficial for all.”
“I am pleased to see the government taking action on this issue and hope to see the wider scientific community feed in their views to this important consultation, which could benefit and improve the lives of many women and babies in this country,” added Prof Dame Davies.