The move in Brussels to abolish national legislation on prescribed quantities for pre-packed products, such as bread, was a hot topic for bakers in 2006, and will continue to be so this year.
Prescribed quantities for bread have a long history in the UK, stretching back well beyond current legislation. They have played a well-recognised role for many years, protecting against misleading or confusing sizes particularly for the elderly and, for example, the visually impaired.
At present, loaves of bread weighing above 300g must be sold in prescribed weights of 400g, 800g or 1,200g to help consumers compare like with like. Under a proposed European directive, such controls would only apply to wines, spirits, coffee, milk, butter, dried pasta and white sugar.
The Federation of Bakers (FoB) believes deregulation would open the door to potential mis-selling and consumer confusion, where a loaf may look the same size but actually weighs less than a traditional loaf.
In February 2006, the FoB won a major victory when we managed to get an amendment tabled to the directive which would allow member states in certain product categories to retain national weight legislation. But there is still much work to be done. The European Council is currently passing its consultation on prescribed quantities to the European Parliament, which is set to vote on the issue in March. So watch this space.