Success? Humanists UK welcomes report that flour will be fortified with folic acid to reduce birth defects

15 October, 2018

Downing Street is reportedly to approve plans to fortify flour in England with folic acid within weeks to prevent hundreds of babies each year from being born with birth defects. The report has been welcomed by Humanists UK as a health measure that will lead to fewer serious or fatal foetal abnormalities and so improve the lives of countless women and their families.

The addition of folic acid into flour will reduce incidents of neural tube defects (NTD) like anencephaly, which is usually fatal in the womb, or causes death shortly after birth. Consequently, around 80% of women who receive such a diagnosis choose to terminate their pregnancy. Until now, the onus was on women who were hoping to become or who were pregnant to take folic acid supplements in the UK, meaning that many women, including those on low incomes or who were not aware that they were pregnant, were not getting enough folic acid. As a result, the UK is believed to have the highest rate of NTDs in Europe.

Previously, members of the All Party Parliamentary Humanist Group (APPHG) have supported the requirement for folic acid to be added to flour, including through APPHG member Lord Rooker’s Bread and Flour Regulations (Folic Acid) Bill in the House of Lords, which was proposed before the 2017 general election.

Humanists UK’s Director of Public Affairs and Policy Richy Thompson said, ‘We welcome reports that the UK Government has listened to the voices of experts and will be joining over 80 countries worldwide which already fortify their flour with folic acid. We recognise that this easily achievable measure will go a long way to reduce unnecessary suffering, and will stop hundreds of babies each year from facing fatal or life-long birth defects.

‘We look forward to the Government’s confirmation that it will be taking the reported action in this vitally important area’.


For further comment or information, please contact Humanists UK Director of Public Affairs and Policy Richy Thompson on or 020 3675 0959.

Read the reported policy change in The Guardian:

At Humanists UK, we advance free thinking and promote humanism to create a tolerant society where rational thinking and kindness prevail. Our work brings non-religious people together to develop their own views, helping people be happier and more fulfilled in the one life we have. Through our ceremonies, education services, and community and campaigning work, we strive to create a fair and equal society for all.