The Real Bread Campaign, part of Sustain: the alliance for better food and farming,
is funded by the Big Lottery's Local Food programme and the Sheepdrove Trust.
8th August 2011
On 6 July 2011, The European Parliament made a legislative resolution on the Council position at first reading with a view to the adoption of a regulation of the European Parliament and of the Council on the provision of food information to consumers. This consolidated document amended a number of regulations, and repealed two Directives, including 2000/13/EC, as described below.
The position adopted at the second reading includes the following annex:
PART A - MANDATORY PARTICULARS ACCOMPANYING THE NAME OF THE FOOD
However, it then goes on to say:
This requirement shall not apply to the following:
(a) ingredients present in the final product;
(b) foods for which freezing is a technologically necessary step of the production process;
(c) foods for which the defrosting has no negative impact on the safety or quality of the food.
We fear that producers and retailers of previously frozen bake-off loaves will claim that clause (c) exempts them from making this fact clear. For the reasons below, we demand that the adoption of this legislation in England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland must not allow such a loophole.
by Chris Young
28th March 2011
A proposed amendment to EU regulations relating to the labelling, presentation and advertising of foodstuffs states: ‘In the case of foods that have been frozen before sale and which are sold defrosted, the name of the food shall be accompanied by the designation "defrosted".
The amendment is a reinforcement of the Article 5.3 of the existing EU Directive 2000/13/EC, which states: ‘The name under which the product is sold shall include or be accompanied by particulars as to the physical condition of the foodstuff or the specific treatment which it has undergone (e.g. powdered, freeze dried, deep-frozen, concentrated, smoked) in all cases where omission of such information could create confusion in the mind of the purchaser.’
The Real Bread Campaign supports the existing Article and proposed amendment, particularly in relation to the marketing of part-baked loaves.
It is common practice amongst certain retailers (notably some supermarkets, convenience stores, petrol stations and baguette sandwich shops), to use terms like ‘fresh’ or ‘freshly baked’ to market loaves that have been part-baked, then either chilled or frozen, and re-baked in-store.
This is despite English and EU labelling law. As advised by the Food Standards Agency back in 2008: ‘Terms such as “freshly baked”, “baked in store” and “oven fresh” may mislead consumers into believing that they are being offered products that have been freshly produced on site from basic raw materials. Some stores sell bread made from part-baked products that have been packed in an inert atmosphere or frozen off-site then “baked off” at in-store bakeries. Use of terms like “freshly baked”, “baked in store” and “oven fresh” on these products could potentially infringe the general legal provisions referred to in paragraph 14 [which cites Article 16 of Regulation (EC) No 178/2002 (on the general principles and requirements of food law); Article 2 of Directive 2000/13/EC (on food labelling); the Food Safety Act 1990; the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008; and the Food Labelling Regulations 1996] above.’
The Real Bread Campaign agrees that consumers are entitled to make fully-informed shopping choices and that marketing products in this way is misleading. We believe the following are key issues around “bake-off” loaves that could influence people’s buying choices, if they knew:
You can read more about the issues surrounding supermarket ‘loaf tanning salons’ in our 2010 report ‘Are Supermarket Bloomers Pants?’
The Real Bread Campaign believes that the UK is lagging behind certain other EU member states in protecting consumers and local independent bakeries. Other countries enforce the regulations on marketing of bake-off loaves.
In Denmark, for instance, 7-Eleven was banned from marketing part-baked loaves as ‘fresh’ . Danish-born Real Bread Campaign member, master baker Troels Bendix of The Hungry Guest said: ‘Essentially it is illegal to call practically any bread that is not made from scratch from start to finish on the day of sale freshly baked.’
Article 1 of the French Decree n° 93-1074 of 13 September 1993 rules that bread can only be called pain maison if it was made from scratch at the bakery, or sold elsewhere by someone from that bakery. Article 2 of the Decree includes the provision that loaves cannot be called pain de tradition française, pain traditionnel français, pain traditionnel de France, or similar if the dough or part-baked loaves have been frozen.
Whilst the Real Bread Campaign fully supports the proposed amendment, the Big Bakers and Big Retailers don’t like the proposals. The Federation of Bakers, which represents the wrapped sliced loaf makers that dominate the UK market says: ‘…if frozen products were required to be additionally labelled this would be an increased complexity to the management of bakeries, it would mean increased costs and may lead to greater confusion amongst consumers.’ Further, Gordon Polson, director of the Federation told foodnavigator.com: ‘…we think you should only have to label products as such if you are misleading the consumer. The need for change is not proven, since there are no safety or quality derogation issues.’
Meanwhile, the Daily Mail quoted the British Retail Consortium as saying: ‘It’s not a question of retailers wanting to keep customers in the dark. If you start listing what products have been previously frozen, is that going to confuse customers?’ This echoes the excuse made by Jim Winship of the British Sandwich Association: ‘If one has to label ingredients as defrosted, then more space will be required on labels, while suppliers of all sorts of food ingredients will face logistical issues in differentiating between products that have and haven't been frozen.’
Confusion between fresh, as in just baked, and shelf life, or the appearance of freshness, seems to be rife in Big Food. It is not unknown for producers and suppliers of processing aids and other artificial additives; industrial loaf manufacturers; and retailers to cite prolonged softness and delayed onset of mould as signs of freshness, rather than of the use of chemicals or enzymes to extend these characteristics - what we have before likened to Botox for bread. It seems that the confusion between fresh and preserved might also extend to freezing: in an interview on Radio 4's You and Yours (28 March 2011), Ian Blackford of CSM, a company that supplies bake-off products to a number of UK supermarket chains, said: 'In many respects, I think you can argue that the frozen product is actually the freshest product that you can get because simply by the definition that you're freezing something, that in itself acts as a natural preservative.'
The Real Bread Campaign believes that, despite the law, and advice from the Food Standards Agency, British consumers are being misled by certain retailers, which are marketing bake-off loaves as ‘fresh.’ In doing so, they could be in breach of one or more British and EU laws.
For the sake of British consumers, local independent Real Bread bakers and the communities they serve, the Campaign welcomes this proposed new amendment but in the meantime calls for:
The Campaign suggests that anyone who believes that a retailer might be using misleading wording when marketing its loaves might, in the first instance, like to challenge the retailer in writing. Should the response not be satisfactory, he or she might like to contact his or her local Trading Standards office.
The following paragraphs are extracts from the Food Standards Agency advisory document Criteria for the use of the terms fresh, pure, natural etc.in food labelling, as revised in July 2008. Highlights are our own.
The terms “fresh” or “freshly” should only be used where they have a clear meaning, whether used alone or qualified by other terms. The description can help consumers differentiate between similar products.
Terms such as “freshly baked”, “baked in store” and “oven fresh” may mislead consumers into believing that they are being offered products that have been freshly produced on site from basic raw materials. Some stores sell bread made from part-baked products that have been packed in an inert atmosphere or frozen off-site then “baked off” at in-store bakeries. Use of terms like “freshly baked”, “baked in store” and “oven fresh” on these products could potentially infringe the general legal provisions referred to in paragraph 14 above*.
The following is the 1998 LACORS* Circular LAC 9 98 9: Labelling and Description of Bread , as published in the Food Standards Agency advisory document Criteria for the use of the terms fresh, pure, natural etc.in food labelling, as revised in July 2008. Highlights are our own.
LACORS = Local Authorities Coordinators of Regulatory Services
LACOTS = Local Authorities Co-ordinating Body on Food and Trading Standards
1.1 LACOTS views are sought on the use of certain words and phrases used in the advertisement, labelling and promotion of bread and similar products which may suggest that they have been produced from raw materials in on-site bakeries (e.g. bakeries within supermarkets etc) when this is in fact not the case.
17 This period was originally 5 weeks.
18 This period was originally reported as 5 weeks.
1.2 Examples include bread and rolls which have been prepared, partially processed and frozen offsite then finished at in-store bakeries. Descriptions applied include "freshly baked", "baked in store", "oven fresh" etc.
2.1 LACOTS is aware that in relation to the baking process the following features are important to take into account:
2.2 LACOTS considers that consumers will not generally be aware of the food processing technology that has made it possible to mass-produce part-processed bread and similar products for storage and finishing later, or that some in-store bakeries do not actually produce some or any of their products from raw materials on-site.
2.3 Consumers may therefore be led to believe, by the use of descriptions such as "freshly baked", "baked in-store", or "oven fresh" in relation to such products and the settings in which they are presented, that they are being offered products which have been freshly produced on-site from raw materials. The differences in keeping qualities between bread part-processed and bread baked from scratch also may not be apparent to consumers.
2.4 LACOTS notes that Article 2.1(a) of the Food Labelling Directive states that "the labelling and methods used must not be such as could mislead the purchaser to a material degree, particularly as to the characteristics of-the foodstuff and, in particular, as to its method of manufacture or production”.
2.5 It is therefore clear that misleading the purchaser to a material degree as to the method of manufacture or production of any food is contrary to the Directive.
2.6 LACOTS view is that, in the absence of the specific implementation of this provision in UK law, the general provisions of Section 15 of the Food Safety Act 1990 and/or Section 1 directly and Sections 2 and 3 indirectly of the Trade Descriptions Act 1968 are the relevant statutory provisions, depending on the circumstances of the case under consideration.