Lack of folic acid in food is linked to baby defects
A reduction in the amount of folic acid added to food is being linked to growing numbers of severe birth defects among Irish newborns.
Dublin City University (DCU) researchers have found breads, cereals, fruit juices, spreads and yogurts are among the products less likely to contain added folic acid resulting in birth defects such as spina bifida.
They found that the increasing preference of Irish consumers for discount retailers, which stock few products fortified with folic acid, may also be contributing to the rise in children born with neural tube defects.
Ireland used to have more widespread voluntary fortification than other European countries, and the rate of birth defects fell up to 2008. However, it started rising again in 2009, with some researchers suggesting economic hardship caused by the recession had affected the quality of food bought by low-income families.
"The impact on women of reproductive age who do not actively take folic acid supplementation before and during the early stages of pregnancy is potentially immense," said DCU Researcher Frances Kelly.