Fond as I am of jaunty ribbon, there’s only one kind I want to see in my business the blue stuff, prettily embossed with our Judges Bakery logo, rather than the giant rolls of red tape, which everyone from the local council to Brussels via the Food Standards Agency (FSA) wants to macramé around us, making trading ever more challenging.
Because now, we’re told, the ’food police’ aka the FSA want to limit the amount of salt and saturated fat in foods (including bread): yet more ways to make it harder for us to do what we do, in an already challenging trading climate. I don’t know if you’ve tried salt-free bread lately, but on the incredibly rare occasion our bakers have accidentally produced a batch without this vital ingredient, a) it doesn’t rise properly and b) you wouldn’t want to eat it anyway, because it’s basically tasteless. In addition, except in the case of some people with high blood pressure, there’s no evidence that salt is harmful; indeed, sodium allows the body to take in fresh fluids, eliminate fluid waste and stay in balance, maintaining blood pressure, avoiding dehydration and keeping the kidneys healthy.
When it comes to fat, I have more mixed feelings being against the use of hydrogenated fats (which contain trans-fats, with their negative implications for health) and worried about the environmental impact of trade in palm oil, which is the practical alternative ingredient. We get around this at Judges by using a small amount of organic palm fat, which must to comply with organic regulation come from sustainable plantations, rather than rainforest areas that have been destroyed in favour of a palm monoculture. But at the end of the day, I’m against a ’nanny state’ that imposes yet more rules on the people. My own theory is that it’s all a clever distraction from the disastrous way the government handles the big stuff such as the economy and wars, or the spread of MRSA in hospitals, which kills more people than a little extra salt or even hydrogenated fat ever will.
It’s unlikely that the FSA guidelines will become mandatory. But if they do, we’ll all have to reformulate our recipes, to comply with all of the extra man hours and expense that entails. Just as we’re all forced to splash out on ’Spills’ signs and don’t-trip-over-the-step yellow-and-black tape and super-sensitive thermometers to take the temperature of our chiller cabinets in order to tick an EHO box three times a day. There surely cannot be an employer in the UK who hasn’t sworn at the layer upon layer of red tape we already have to comply with, muttering under their breath while perusing a 600-page Seton Health & Safety catalogue of equipment full of ludicrously expensive ’Danger’ placards, stickers, protective clothing and illuminated signs.
So, am I the only one who sees red about all the extra tape that we’re faced with, when all we want to do is bake good bread just like bakers have been doing for millennia long before anyone had invented the word bureaucracy?