Bread and flour Getty Images

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More than 150 UK bakery professionals have signed a letter to the government calling for the inclusion of the Real Bread Campaign’s Honest Crust Act proposals within its review of the Bread and Flour Regulations 1998.

The letter, written by the Real Bread Campaign and addressed to environment secretary George Eustice, says the current regulations fall short in protecting the ability of small, independent bakeries to compete on fair terms with large manufacturers and retailers regarding bread composition, labelling and marketing.

Issues listed in the letter include:

  • The lack of legislation for displaying ingredients for products sold unwrapped
  • The absence of a mandatory minimum percentage of unrefined grain ingredients in products marketed using the word ‘wholegrain’
  • The ability of large retailers to market loaves made off site and then baked off in store as ‘freshly baked’, or ‘baked here today’
  • The use of the word ‘sourdough’ by manufacturers to market loaves that haven’t been made by the long-fermentation sourdough process.

The Real Bread Campaign – which is run by the food and farming charity Sustain – has suggested how these issues could be addressed in a list of proposals called the Honest Crust Act. The organisation would now like the Department of Environment, Food & Rural Affairs (Defra) to consider those proposals in the imminent public consultation as part of its review of the Bread and Flour Regulations 1998.

However, the Real Bread Campaign said Defra had not allowed adequate discussion of the issues at meetings of the Bread and Flour Technical Working Group set up by the department as part of its review, and would not commit to including them within the public consultation.

“Key regulations governing our sector were laid down almost a quarter of a century ago, and the outcome of this review could affect independent bakers’ livelihoods for another generation to come,” said Alison Swan Parente, chair of the Real Bread Campaign. “We are simply asking the government to include these proposals in the consultation so that bakers – and everyone else – can have their say on them.”

The Real Bread Campaign’s letter sent to environment secretary Eustice also rejects the proposed sourdough code of practice – drawn up in 2019 by trade bodies including the Association of Bakery Ingredient Manufacturers (ABIM) and the Federation of Bakers but yet to be rubber-stamped by Defra – labelling it a “cheat’s charter”.

“This is about honesty, transparency and listening to the people,” said Andrew Whitley, co-founder of Bread Matters, Scotland the Bread and the Real Bread Campaign. “Our Honest Crust Act proposals are designed to support community bakers who help to keep our high streets alive and to help enable shoppers make better-informed choices about the food they buy.”