NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Governments Committing "Public Health Malpractice" Over Flour Fortification

June 7, 2002

The failure of European governments, including the United Kingdom, to fortify flour with folic acid has allowed a continuing epidemic of preventable human illness, health experts say.

Fortification could save as many lives as are lost each year in vehicle crashes, according to Professor Godfrey Oakley of Emory University. Yet in Europe, fortification has been delayed because of erroneous speculation of possible harm for elderly people.

  • Recent evidence indicates that fortification improves the lives of adults, including elderly people, and that it is safe.
  • In 1998 -- the year in which flour fortification was made mandatory in the United States -- deaths from stroke and heart attack declined by 3.4 percent.
  • Fortification is sustainable, inexpensive and effective.

Although fortification of flour is long overdue in the United

Kingdom and the remainder of Europe, say experts, the U.K. board of the Food Standards Agency recently decided against mandatory folic acid fortification -- the equivalent of public health malpractice.

Source: Editorial, "Delaying folic acid fortification of flour," British Medical Journal, June 8, 2002.

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