BRITAIN will take the first step towards mass medication of the population this week with the publication of proposals to add the vitamin folic acid to bread.
A report commissioned by ministers will recommend the compulsory fortification of flour and bread with folic acid to help prevent babies being born with birth defects.
It will say the benefits seen in the United States and Canada, where the strategy has helped reduce birth defects such as spina bifida by as much as 50%, justify such state intervention.
It will, however, be controversial: critics claim it takes away individual choice and could have other health risks, including contributing to neurological damage in the elderly.
In Australia, where a similar proposal is being advocated, there has been vocal opposition from the food industry, which claims it is backed by up to 90% of the public in polls.
In Britain, the move is being proposed by the Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition, which was commissioned by ministers to examine the case for adding folic acid to bread.
Source - Times