News / Real Bread Campaign

Hidden flour additives revealed at last

After 70 years, new EU law requires declaration of UK flour ‘fortificants’.

The new Food Information Regulations (FIR) have come into effect across the UK. While they fall far short of our proposed Honest Crust Act, they do at least take a small step towards the mandatory full listing of all ingredients and additives for all baked products that we urge the government to introduce.
From today (13 December 2014) the chalk (calcium carbonate), iron, niacin and thiamin(e) added to most UK-milled flour will have to be listed on ingredient labels.

As Food Standards Agency guidance to the new FIR notes: ‘The exemption from the need to label the fortifying agents in UK produced flour will not be retained. There is no provision in the EU FIC for a corresponding exemption for the essential ingredients added to flour. After 13 December 2014, UK produced wheat flour will be considered a compound ingredient and the presence of the statutory nutrients will have to be declared. Businesses may wish to consider using a phrase such as ‘wheat flour with added calcium, iron, niacin and thiamine’ in the ingredients list.’

Real Bread Campaign coordinator Chris Young said: “hooray for the latest piece of protection granted to us all in the UK by our membership of the EU!”

A history of mystery

Since 1942 it has been mandatory for UK millers to add calcium carbonate to all UK-milled wheat flour except wholemeal, with thiamin(e) also being added by 1942. When the wartime and post-war prohibition on milling white flour was lifted in 1953, the ‘fortification’ requirement extended to niacin and iron as well.

For the past seven decades, however, people in the UK have been kept in the dark about this involuntary mass medication of the nation. With the food industry and successive governments seemingly reluctant to confess what has been put into our food, listing these four additives on labels wasn’t mandatory and food producers chose not to let us know voluntarily.

Despite the new FIR, ingredients lists still only have to appear on prepacked foods (eg industrial loaf products) and so-called processing aids do not even have to be included on them. The law (and common practice) still leaves shoppers in the dark about the contents of loaves that are sold unwrapped or pre-packed for direct sale – eg at a supermarket loaf tanning salon.

[This news item was published retrospectively]

See also

Published 13 Dec 2014

Real Bread Campaign: The Real Bread Campaign finds and shares ways to make bread better for us, better for our communities and better for the planet. Whether your interest is local food, community-focussed small enterprises, honest labelling, therapeutic baking, or simply tasty toast, everyone is invited to become a Campaign supporter.

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