Fortification of Foods with Folic Acid
The Committee says the aim of its recommendation is to reduce the number of babies born with neural tube defects (NTDs) in Ireland every year. Folic acid is a B vitamin, which, if taken for at least eight weeks prior to, and 12 weeks, after conception, is known to reduce by up to 70% the risk of NTDs, a group of severe birth defects such as spina bifida that can develop in babies during the first weeks of pregnancy.
Ireland currently has one of the highest incidences of NTDs in Europe , with approximately 1-1.5 per 1,000 births nationally, equating to between 49 and 93 babies, affected by NTDs each year. The National Committee on Folic Acid Food Fortification, established by the Minister for Health and Children, under the secretariat of the Food Safety Authority of Ireland, was tasked with establishing the most effective public health strategy to increase the intake of folic acid among Irish women of childbearing age, to reduce the nation's high incidence of NTDs.