Allied Bakeries is restructuring into eight regional business units - it makes a lot of sense, economically and of course environmentally. Supplying more products locally will save on food miles and allow for regional variations (pg 4).
It is the shape of things to come as the environment moves from the back burner to take centre stage. Changes will not happen overnight, but sooner rather than later. I predict all bread and cakes will soon be in recyclable packaging, while standard polythene and plastic packaging will be out - permanently.
But there are so many issues to balance that a lot of headaches are bound to result. As one delegate to the Federation of Bakers Conference said last week: "Do you go for fresh and recyclable or long-life and preservable?"
It is a similar argument with ingredients. Do you use salt, sugar and fat as natural preservatives or do you reduce them where possible and accept a shorter shelf-life? But if that necessitates more deliveries, it in turn increases food miles. There are many dilemmas to be resolved and most delegates hoped that no-one would leap in with a publicity-grabbing snap decision on a single solution because none exists.
Also high on the agenda this week is folic acid (pg 6 and 19). To add or not to add? That question has been decided. The answer was a resounding ’yes!’ But at the next FSA board meeting in mid-June the important issue of mechanics will be decided: namely at what stage should it be added and to what?
Most delegates I spoke to at the conference want it added to white and brown flours (not wholemeal). This is the simple solution because it will be added at the same time as the present mandatory fortifications of calcium, iron, thiamine and niacin.
Adding it to all flours will cause problems with separate feeders and some mixes. But the conference also brought illumination in the person of Professor Robert Pickard, director general of the British Nutrition Foundation, who pointed out that folates are most important at conception and the first month of pregnancy when most people do not even realise they are pregnant. Also 10% of British women have difficulty recycling (metabolising) folate in their bodies. This is the nub of the argument for adding folic acid.