Defra has stated that bread using white flour should not be marketed with the word wholemeal.

The Real Bread Campaign believes the Defra statement means companies will have to relabel or reformulate some wholemeal and ‘50/50’ loaves - but industry chiefs have yet to state their position.

The Federation of Bakers told British Baker it has been working with the Food & Drink Federation, UK Flour Millers and the British Retail Consortium to draft an industry position statement.

“This is in the process of being finalised and will be shared in due course,” said Federation of Bakers chief executive Andrew Pyne. It is not yet known when the industry position statement will be published.

Bread and Flour Regulations

The situation follows complaints made by the Real Bread Campaign over some branded and own-label loaves that it claims contravene The Bread and Flour Regulations. These include ‘50/50’ loaves and loaves described as wholemeal that contain small amounts of white flour. Retailers have previously stated that the white flour in wholemeal loaves has been used as a processing aid or sprinkled on loaves.

Regulation 6 states: “There shall not be used in the labelling or advertising of bread, as part of the name of the bread, whether or not qualified by other words […] the word ‘wholemeal’ unless all the flour used as an ingredient in the preparation of the bread is wholemeal.”

The campaign complained to the trading standards departments responsible for the bread brands/retailers that it claimed had contravened the regulations.

Not legally binding

It has since obtained a copy of a statement issued by Defra to trading standards officers. Defra stressed in this that it is not making a statement of the law, and that only the courts can interpret the law in a legally binding way.

Defra’s statement said: “The language used in regulation 6 of the Bread and Flour Regulations 1998 is clear and quite strict in that the term wholemeal should not be used in the labelling or advertising of the bread, as part of the name of the bread.”

It goes onto say that: “From this standpoint the use of the term wholemeal in the name of some of the 50/50 style products may be considered to be in conflict with this requirement.”

The department said it would be possible to adjust labelling to market these products in a way that complies with The Bread and Flour Regulations 1998 and the Food Information to Consumers Regulations. It suggested, for example, that a product could be marketed as “50/50 bread made with a blend of flour” and that wholemeal flour could be declared in the ingredients list.

Real Bread Campaign coordinator Chris Young said the campaign welcomed the Defra position as ‘a small victory for shoppers’.

“We trust that companies will be quick to amend the marketing of their half-and-half products, as well as removing refined flour from their otherwise wholemeal ones,” he added.