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The Real Bread Campaign has accused the government of abandoning bakers and insulting shoppers by omitting what it sees as key issues from the recently announced consultation on amending the Bread and Flour Regulations.

Last week, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) moved its review of the regulations to the next stage by launching a consultation which focused on the amount of folic acid to be added to non-wholemeal flour. This followed an announcement in September 2021 that the government would proceed with plans to make the fortification of flour with folic acid mandatory.

However, the Real Bread Campaign, which has put forward a number of proposals for the Defra review, reacted in anger and dismay at the narrow scope of the consultation.

“We believe that current regulations are not fit for purpose, do not support small bakery owners and do not protect shoppers adequately,” said Chris Young, Real Bread Campaign coordinator. “As the majority of people buy products sold as bread, we believe that ignoring their needs is an insult to practically everyone in the UK.

“Combined with the absence of adequate intervention and support in the face of skyrocketing costs, it feels like the government has chosen to abandon the owners of small real bread bakeries that help to keep our high streets alive.”

In a recent letter-writing campaign, Young’s organisation alerted environment secretary George Eustice to a number of areas in which it believes bread regulation falls short. These 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.

“If the current review of legislation regulating the composition, labelling and marketing of flour and bread is neither the time or the place to consider our Honest Crust Act proposals to update and improve the regulation of the composition, labelling and marketing of bread, then exactly when and where is?” Young added.

The Real Bread Campaign said it will respond to the consultation before the 23 November deadline and in the meantime consider what next steps to take.

“Clearly ‘the market’ is failing to self-regulate, while the lack of actual regulation leaves consumer protection bodies all but powerless to act in cases of misleading marketing and incomplete/absent ingredient labelling,” Young said.