A EUROPEAN Commission committee has voted to allow bread and other staples to be excluded from the EU Nominal Quantities Directive.

The EU Internal Market and Consumer Protection Committee voted in favour of amending the draft directive on December 12. This directive currently states there should be no set weights for products.

The move is hailed as a “vital and important first step” towards allowing the UK to retain its system of selling bread in prescribed quantities by the Federation of Bakers (FoB).

It wants bread to be exempt from the Directive, to prevent consumers being confused over the comparative prices of loaves. Currently bread above 300g in weight has to be sold in set weights – 400g, 800g and 1,200g.

But new bread weights, such as 500g, 600g or 1,000g, could also be added in the UK.

FoB director Gordon Polson commented: “The vote in favour of exemptions for staple products was a vital and important first step. There is support across Europe for exemptions for products, including butter, milk and pasta.”

The issue will now go forward to the European Parliament for debate, with a vote expected to take place in January or February. The issue is then likely to be decided in a conciliation process between the European Parliament, the Commission and the Council of Ministers. It could take a year to 18 months to resolve. Mr Polson said: “It is difficult to predict how long it will take to resolve. The problem is the European Council is against exemptions.”

NA chief executive David Smith said if weights were deregulated, bakers would still have to declare each loaf’s weight to conform with labelling regulations. That would complicate procedures. “There are people in our sector who say we can cope with total deregulation, but I think we are better keeping the status quo,” he said.