URGING women to take folic acid in pregnancy is failing to drive down rates of spina bifida, while the number of abortions for such defects is rising, experts have said.
Rates of neural tube defects – birth defects of the brain, spine or spinal cord – are still too high and countries should consider adding folic acid to bread and flour, researchers said.
Earlier this month, UK government advisers wrote to ministers expressing their concern that recommendations made in 2000, 2006 and 2009 to improve levels of folic acid intake had still not been taken on board.
They pointed to a rising number of abortions in England and Wales for neural tube defects, with 420 in 2013.
The letter, from the Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition (SACN), said the number of births affected by the defects was too high.
Women are urged to take 400mcg of folic acid daily whilst trying to conceive and for the first three months of pregnancy to cut the chance of neural tube defects, which include spina bifida and anencephaly.
In the US, fortifying flour with folic acid has led to a reduction in neural tube defects.