Health departments across England, Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales are being asked for their views on adding folic acid to flour which could prevent up to 200 birth defects a year.
Public Health Minister, Seema Kennedy, has launched a 12-week consultation to explore adding folic acid to flour as well as other products.
More than 60 countries worldwide, including Australia, Canada and the US add folic acid to flour.
In Australia, neural tube defects fell by 14% after it became a legal requirement for folic acid to be added to bread flour.
Folic acid (vitamin B9) is essential to the development of babies during early pregnancy, however some women are not consuming enough which can lead to neural tube defects.
Around 1,000 pregnancies in the UK are diagnosed with neural tube defects every year in the UK.
Commenting on the consultation, Professional Policy Advisor at the Royal College of Midwives (RCM), Clare Livingstone, said: “The RCM is delighted that the Government have now launched this consultation. We have been calling for this for some time now and will be responding to the consultation.
“Introducing the mandatory fortification of flour will bring the UK in line with other countries including the United States and Canada. They have this in place because the evidence about the benefits is very strong. In those countries the impact have been a marked reduction in incidences of fetal abnormality.”
The consultation on whether flour millers should be required by law to add folic acid to flour will be live until 11:59pm on Monday 9 September 2019.
The consultation can be found here.
Keep up to date with the latest research and news from MIDIRS by subscribing to our quarterly academic journal. Subscribe to MIDIRS Midwifery Digest