Position Statement – Folic acid fortification of flour to prevent neural tube defects in Europe

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Neural tube defects are disabling birth defects developing during the very early stages of conception. Children born with spina bifida face significant physical, psychological and social consequences. They may have bowel and urinary dysfunction, and no lower limb muscle control, resulting in lifelong wheelchair use. There is robust evidence that periconceptual folic acid supplementation prevents neural tube defects, when compared with no intervention. However, approximately 40% pregnancies in Europe are unplanned, and women may therefore not be taking prophylactic folic acid at the time of conception. There is evidence that low dose folic acid consumption via flour fortification provides further benefits in prevention of neural tube defects.