A pro-life group has welcomed Government plans to add folic acid to flour, describing it as a “positive” development.
Ministers are consulting on the proposal, which is intended to help prevent birth defects such as spina bifida.
It is estimated fortifying flour with folic acid could prevent up to 200 birth defects a year.
Women are advised to take 400 micrograms of folic acid a day for at least a month before conception and up to the 12th week of pregnancy.
However many women are unaware they should take the supplement.
A spokesperson for Christian Medical Fellowship (CMF) welcomed the news.
CMF said: “Spina bifida and anencephaly are serious but preventable and reasonable interventions to reduce the incidence of these conditions is potentially very positive.”
They highlighted that “many other countries have taken similar measures” and seen a significant fall in the incidence of neural tube defects.
“Despite real advances with the in utero surgical treatment of spina bifida, diagnosis of such neural tube defects sadly often leads to abortion. If the condition can be prevented from developing in the first place, this would be very positive.”
Abortion up to birth
Under legislation in England, Wales and Scotland, babies affected by spina bifida can be aborted up to birth. In Northern Ireland they are protected by law.
Figures from the Department of Health and Social Care show that 130 babies were aborted because of spina bifida in England and Wales in 2018.
The condition is caused when the spinal cord does not develop properly, in some cases resulting in paralysis and brain damage.
Earlier this year, Elouise Simpson received a pioneering in-womb surgery for spina bifida at just 25 weeks.
The NHS has confirmed that the in-womb surgery will soon be routinely available.