From Stuart Matthews,

director, Unsoy UK

In my local pub we have a journalist whom I call "organic Harry", because he knows everything about healthy food. But when I ask him why people only lived to 30-plus 200 or 300 years ago and it is now the norm for people from any background to live for over 100 years, he has no answer.

I can also remember asking Andrew Whitley (who has recently written the controversial book Bread Matters, see British Baker, 27 October 2006) where he got his organic water from in Cumbria! I don’t think I ever got an answer and I think Andrew was also originally a journalist, who has now become the voice of old-fashioned bread.

I am proud to be a baker and am perhaps more critical than anyone about the state of our daily bread, but is Andrew honestly saying that Warburtons, Allied (Kingsmill), RHM (Hovis), without mentioning Brace’s and Rathbone Kear, do not make quality bread? If that is the case, why has Warburtons gone from being a regional bakery to having national coverage?

Anyone who has old bakery books only needs to look at the recipes and photos to understand that today’s consumer would not buy those products. It may be OK, when you are up in Cumbria in holiday mode and you buy products such as those Andrew used to sell, to say they are the best you have ever eaten. But if that is so, then why have we not got a wood-burning oven in every village in the UK, making bread as it was made years ago?

The millers and improver manufacturers are only decreasing the fermentation process from hours to minutes. Also, Andrew only has to look at what bread sells well in the UK - and that is a soft product, which has versatility for burgers, toast, sandwiches etc. Bread from years ago would be impossible to sell in the year 2006 as, in most cases, you would have to use a hatchet to chop the bread up, given the leathery crust that long fermentation produces.

No, Andrew, like it or not, the baking and milling industry is doing what most other industries have done - making progress. Please also don’t forget that millers now use more English wheat to produce flour, due to its improved quality, instead of importing so much from Canada and other places, as we did years ago

.Alan Ort

Alan Ort - known as Ron Ort - has died aged 79 after a long career in the baking industry.

Londoner Ron was born above one of his father’s bakery shops, started work there at 13 and only took a break from baking when he was drafted into the army. He left his father’s business in 1951 and joined Bournes bakery in East Ham, before moving to a small bakery on the Wandsworth Road, where he had to kill rats with the bread boxes.

Ron joined Allied Bakeries in 1953, where, apart from one small break in 1978 to manage bakeries in Jamaica, he stayed for 38 years. He worked at Nevills, Herne Hill, then moved to Acton bakery, firstly as shift manager, then production manager. A later group production role involved troubleshooting at certain Allied bakeries while developing many well-known brands’ recipes and even flour types.

After returning from Jamaica, Ron became bakery manager at Chibnalls bakery in West London, where he introduced his youngest son, Ian, to the baking industry as an electrical apprentice. Ron retired from baking in 1991.