== Gordon Polson ==

Director, The Federation of Bakers

This year has certainly been eventful so far for plant bakers. We still do not know the full picture following the harvest. Although the UK wheat crop produced a healthy amount, the bulk of the wheat seems to be low-grade. Without adequate amounts of milling standard wheat, prices will remain high and it seems unlikely that the cost of flour, and hence bread, will reduce in the coming months.

Salt reduction remains a topic on many plant bakers’ lips. The Food Standards Agency (FSA), despite acknowledging the good work carried out by the bread industry in reducing the levels of salt in order to meet the targets set for 2010, plans to further challenge the industry to reduce salt with new targets likely to be set for 2012.

The Federation of Bakers is concerned that these new targets will be technically very difficult for the industry to achieve. A lot of work will be needed to ascertain whether the new targets are achievable, and the industry intends to voice its thoughts and concerns to the FSA during the consultation period.

Joint research with the FSA should help establish the functionality of salt in a plant baking environment. Once completed, we will be better-placed to know the limits and assess the technical hurdles.

This year, bakers have also seen the UK legislation proposed for the abolition of prescribed quantities in April 2009 - the historic end of 700 years of standard loaf sizes. This will obviously have a huge impact on the bread industry and we expect the response of bakers and, in turn, the feedback of consumers, to be a key topic in the coming months.