News Real Bread Campaign

Loaf fabricators challenge ‘all flour must be wholemeal’ law

Trade body hires lawyers to give an opinion that 50% white loaves can be marketed with the word wholemeal.

Iceland and Warburtons half white products included in Campaign investigation. Copyright: Iceland and Warburtons. Fair use.

Iceland and Warburtons half white products included in Campaign investigation. Copyright: Iceland and Warburtons. Fair use.

Regulation 6 of The Bread and Flour Regulations (1998) requires that: 'There shall not be used in the labelling or advertising of bread, as part of the name of the bread, whether or not qualified by other words […] the word 'wholemeal' unless all the flour used as an ingredient in the preparation of the bread is wholemeal.’

On 29 January 2024, British Baker reported that, ‘following legal counsel’, the Federation of Bakers (FoB) and its collaborators The Food and Drink Federation and UK Millers had issued an industry position that: ‘“the use of the term ‘wholemeal’ in relation to bread products containing a mix of wholemeal and non-wholemeal flours on both the packaging and in marketing communications is compliant with The Regulation. This is principally on the basis that ‘wholemeal’ is not used in the name of the product (i.e., wholemeal bread).”’

The FoB’s action is in response to Real Bread Campaign complaints about seven of the UK’s largest loaf manufacturers and retailers using the word wholemeal to name and/or market products made with 50% refined flour. These included ‘Half White Half Wholemeal’ from Warburtons, ‘Two In One White & Wholemeal’ from Lidl’s own-brand Rowan Hill, and Iceland’s ‘50% White and Wholemeal’. 

Real Bread Campaign coordinator Chris Young said:

‘The law is clear: wholemeal means wholemeal. In order to be able to use the word wholemeal in naming and advertising a product, all of the flour must be wholemeal.’ This was re-enforced last year by Defra confirming to trading standards officers that the Regulations ‘prohibit the use of the term wholemeal in the naming or advertising of these products.’ Defra also stated that the word wholemeal should appear on the ingredients list but nowhere else. 

‘We’re amazed that the Federation of Bakers has gone to the extent of hiring lawyers in order to dispute this. As with wholegrain, freshly-baked, sourdough, artisan, heritage wheat and a whole basket of other marketing terms, we’re working to ensure appropriate use of the word wholemeal.'

Having issued a response to the public consultation on amending the Bread and Flour Regulations, last week Defra advised the Campaign that ‘we anticipate laying the amending legislation in the summer.’ Defra has also said that use of the word wholemeal will be included in its new guidance to the revised Regulations. Young concluded “we trust that the guidance will be in line with what Defra stated previously. Resolution to this unnecessary state of limbo cannot come too soon for consumer protection officers, manufacturers and the rest of us as food buyers.’

The current situation

Companies using the word wholemeal to name and/or market products made with 50% white flour:

  • Aldi / Village Bakery, Both in One: 29JAN24 Peterborough City Council wrote: 'Defra and officers did have a meeting just before Christmas and there appeared to be common understanding on the legal situation, that the regulation 6 BFR restricts the use of the word wholemeal as part of the name of the bread, and that the control is on the use in the name for the products.  Defra were to put together some communication which is expected soon.'
  • Hovis, Best of Both: 2FEB24 Buckinghamshire & Surrey Trading Standards wrote: 'I understand that Defra will be producing guidance following a recent meeting with interested parties. It has been indicated that this guidance will provide the Defra position on the wholemeal interpretation issue. Once we have that guidance we will need to consider the contents before progressing with the businesses we have Primary Authority Partnerships(PAP) with as well as liaising with other colleagues who have PAPs to ensure the market sector is regulated appropriately.'
  • Iceland, 50% White and Wholemeal: Company discontinued product in January 2023 following Real Bread Campaign complaint.
  • Jacksons, Bloomin' Both: 7DEC23 Hull City Council advised limited resources means their focus is on other issues.
  • Lidl / Rowan Hill, Two In One White & Wholemeal: 29JAN24 We asked LB Tower Hamlet to ask LB Bexley for an update.
  • Sainsbury's: Both in One: Company removed word ‘wholemeal’ from front-of-pack in October 2023 following trading standards’ intervention.
  • Warburtons, Half White Half Wholemeal: Company re-named product ‘Half & Half’ in January 2024 following trading standards’ intervention.

Companies using the word wholemeal to name and market products made with other amounts of white flour:

  • Asda: 5FEB24 A trading standrds officer at West Yorkshire Joint Services wrote: 'I am in discussions with DEFRA and therefore don’t have an update at this moment. Once there is an update I will be in touch.' 
  • Marks & Spencer: 2JAN24 Birmingham City Council advised they are waiting for the Defra guidance.
  • Sainsbury’s: 25JUL23 Oxfordshire County Council told us ‘The business has now been advised how to comply with the legislation by relabelling and / or reformulation.’
  • Waitrose: 2FEB24 See Hovis above for Buckinghamshire & Surrey Trading Standards' response.

See also

Real Bread Campaign wholemeal proposal to be adopted

Published Tuesday 30 January 2024

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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