Perspectives on adding folic acid to flour to prevent spinal bifida | Letters

Dr JK Anand, Chris Page and Pam Lunn reflect on the UK government’s decision

Of course the planned fortification of flour with folic acid will help – where the cause of spina bifida is nutritional deficiency of folic acid (All UK flour to be given folic acid additive, 15 October). However, it can not conceivably prevent the defect where it is due to genetic factors – two defective genes from two parents coming together.

In some parts of the world consanguineous marriages are commoner than in others. An academic paper in the Journal of Health, Population and Nutrition (Vol 32, No 2, June 2014) by Nazish Jabeen and Sajid Malik from a university in Pakistan is useful reading. The practice has nothing to do with religion. It is purely “custom and practice”.

Given that the matter is one of medical genetics and religion does not come in to it, could the government seek the advice of the medical and social scientists, on the value of banning first-cousin marriages in this country, and of refusing legal recognition to such unions when contracted abroad?
Dr JK Anand

• Your article on the mandatory addition of folic acid to flour in the UK to prevent neural tube defects contained an inaccurate assertion about spina bifida – that it inevitably means having to use a wheelchair. As someone with the condition, I can assure you this is not a given. It is dependent on the type of spina bifida and the severity of resulting paralysis.

I am a wheelchair-user, but have met people who were only made aware they had the condition as a result of an X-ray. They looked and walked as most non-disabled people do. For the record, I am against the addition of folic acid. I would be happier if this government concentrated on treating existing disabled people better instead of trying to prevent future generations of us.
Chris Page
Letchworth, Hertfordshire

• On Sunday, Claire Perry, the minister for energy and clean growth, declined to endorse the IPCC’s strong recommendation that we should reduce our meat consumption in order to curb greenhouse gases. She regarded this as too much of a “nanny state” action, as she doesn’t regard it has her job to tell us not to eat steak and chips. On the same day, it was announced that the government will mandate the addition of folic acid to flour to reduce foetal developmental problems. This, presumably, isn’t regarded as the action of a “nanny state”?
Pam Lunn
Kenilworth, Warwickshire

• Join the debate – email

• Read more Guardian letters – click here to visit

• Do you have a photo you’d like to share with Guardian readers? Click here to upload it and we’ll publish the best submissions in the letters spread of our print edition


The GuardianTramp

Related Content

Article image
How can every mind matter in a broken mental health system? | Letters
Letters: Readers respond to the launch of the NHS Every Mind Matters campaign and share their thoughts on other mental health issues


09, Oct, 2019 @4:29 PM

Article image
Health visitors are crucial for families | Letters
Letters: Mental illness such as post-natal depression is helped by home visits from a specialist community public health nurse, writes Woody Caan


07, Oct, 2020 @4:13 PM

Article image
In a stew over your Lancashire hotpot | Brief letters
Brief letters: Parenting classes | Theatre | Alternative music | Stews | Donald Trump


10, Feb, 2020 @6:24 PM

Article image
No lack of real beer due to CO2 shortage – just Eurofizz | Brief letters
Brief letters: Real ale | NHS at 70 | Vaginal treatments | Morris cars | Hiding valuables


03, Jul, 2018 @4:07 PM

Article image
Suffering of childbirth is made acceptable by its glorification | Letters
Letters: More elective caesarians should be carried out, says Hilary Farey, and Lizzy Gwilliam provides a network for disabled mothers


16, Oct, 2018 @4:40 PM

Article image
Folic acid: new research is a 'gamechanger' in push to fortify British foods
Study concludes there is no need for an upper limit on folate, removing a further barrier to mandatory fortification that would prevent birth defects

Rebecca Smithers

31, Jan, 2018 @6:02 AM

Article image
Warmer words might help us to deal with the pain of miscarriage | Letters
Letters: Rosie Toothill, Mike Corcoran and Shirley Harrington respond to Katy Lindemann’s article about the grief of losing a baby being compounded by insensitive language


12, Oct, 2018 @3:45 PM

Article image
Drinking during pregnancy is not without risk | Letters
Letters: David J Wilson, John Freeman and Phyll Hardie respond to an article by Zoe Williams


23, Sep, 2020 @4:21 PM

Article image
Shared leave policy is a confused mess | Letter
Letter: The system is in urgent need of reform, writes Peter Moss


04, Dec, 2018 @4:58 PM

Article image
Folic acid to be added to UK flour in effort to reduce birth defects
Exclusive: ministers finally overcome food industry objections on compulsory fortification

Denis Campbell Health policy editor

14, Oct, 2018 @5:04 PM