"No plans" to support small bakeries and shoppers says department deputy.
In a Q&A for the alliance’s Annual Conference, Sustain’s deputy Chief Executive, Ben Reynolds, put part of the Real Bread Campaign’s long-standing Honest Crust Act proposal to Victoria Prentis, the Parliamentary Under Secretary of State at the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs.
He said: “Clarifying definitions on bread labelling of products such as sourdough and wholegrain could unlock a real boon for smaller bakers, and with it thousands more jobs. Is this something that Defra might consider as a low-cost option to help consumers and boost enterprise?”
Victoria Prentis rejected this simple measure, stating: “We currently have no plans to widen the scope of the [Bread and Flour] Regulations to include a definition of sourdough or wholegrain. Our view is that this isn't really a regulatory matter. There are differing practices for the production of sourdough through the industry and we'd encourage producers to work together to reach agreement on whatever sourdough practices suit the industry."
A kick in the teeth
Real Bread Campaign coordinator Chris Young said: “This is ridiculous. It feels like a real kick in the teeth for many small, independent bakery owners whose neighbourhood businesses help to feed the nation and keep their high streets alive. These entrepreneurs support more jobs per loaf and could create tens of thousands more, but Defra seems deaf to their needs. It also shuns shoppers, who need better protection from incomplete labelling and what we see as unscrupulous marketing.”
Other common descriptors without legal definition include freshly-baked, fresh bread, sourdough, artisan, heritage wheat and ancient grains. While retailers have the choice, they are not legally required to display ingredients lists for loaves and sandwiches they sell unwrapped, and can choose not to declare some additives - known as 'processing aids' - at all.
Glimmer of hope
The Parliamentary Under Secretary of State did offer one small glimmer of hope. Re-stating a promise made to the Real Bread Campaign by Defra in November 2018, she said: “We do plan to review these Regulations in the future and would genuinely welcome comments on these rules.”
Well beyond Defra’s 20 day target response time, the Real Bread Campaign continues to chase the Secretary of State at the department for a timescale to fulfil this promise and answer other questions it asked in October 2020.
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14 Dec 2020
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