Representatives of EU food safety agencies meeting in Paris last week confirmed the importance of folic acid for the prevention of neural tube defects.
They also pointed out that it is difficult to achieve the recommended 400 micrograms of folate through the diet.
While the issue of mandatory fortification was discussed, Europe seems to remain fearful of possible risks. However products that have been fortified with folic acid or are naturally rich in folate and supplements could be further promoted by national agencies.
The groups said there is still a need to increase consumer awareness, especially in women, of the benefits of increasing their folate status. They are to explore as a priority the possibilities for promoting the health benefits of specific sources of folic acid, although this will be in the arena of future EU health claims regulations.
They also pledged to monitor the health consequences of fortification and follow new scientific knowledge including specifically a possible risk of masking a vitamin B12 deficiency in elderly people.