News Real Bread Campaign

Wholemeal loaf law breach?

Real Bread Campaign questions loaf manufacturers using the word wholemeal to market 50% white loaves.

50% white loaves marketed using the word wholemeal. Credit: Fair use

50% white loaves marketed using the word wholemeal. Credit: Fair use

The Real Bread Campaign found the word wholemeal being used prominently by Aldi, Hovis, Iceland, Jacksons, Lidl, Sainsbury's and Warburtons in the marketing (and, in two cases, names) of industrial loaf products made using at least 50% highly-refined white flour. 

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The law

Section 6 of The Bread and Flour Regulations 1998 demand 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.’

The Regulations go on to require that: ‘no person shall sell or advertise for sale any bread in contravention of this regulation.’

Governmental guidance published by Defra states that: 'Bread labelled or advertised as ‘wholemeal’ must contain 100% wholemeal flour.'

The products

These are the brands and products in question, with latest situation in brackets. PA = local authority with Primary Authority relationship with the company for trading standards.

  • Aldi / Village Bakery: Both in One [October 2023: We asked PA for an update] 
  • Hovis: Best of Both [October 2023: We asked PA for an update] 
  • Iceland: 50% White and Wholemeal [January 2023: Product discountinued.]
  • Jacksons: Bloomin' Both [October 2023: We asked PA for an update] 
  • Lidl / Rowan Hill: Two In One White & Wholemeal [October 2023: We emailed Lidl, asking them to amend the product name and marketing]
  • Sainsbury's: Both in One [October 2023: Product relabelled. July 2023: PA advised product 'be subject to a relabelling exercise'.]
  • Warburtons: Half White Half Wholemeal [October 2023: We asked PA for an update] 

The Real Bread Campaign has written to the heads of the companies, which are amongst the UK's largest supermarkets and industrial loaf manufacturers, asking them to review the marketing of these products.

Real Bread Campaign coordinator Chris Young said: "The problem here is that the law and official guidance clearly state that the word wholemeal can only be used in a product name or marketing if all of the flour in that product is wholemeal. While we're working hard to convince the government to improve loaf labelling and marketing legislation in the UK, it's a worry if manufacturers and retailers can't even follow the law as it stands."

He added: "Bakers helping people to trade up from 100% white to at least fifty-fifty is a good thing. What we don't want to see from industrial loaf fabricators is any marketing that's misleading or otherwise breaches applicable regulations. While they're at it, we'd love to see them ditching the additives they use, all of which are unnecessary by definition."

Other brands

'Half and half' category loaf products manufactured under the M&S, Braces and Roberts bands appear to have discontinued.

Meanwhile, Kingsmill sidesteps the issue by using the phrase 'hidden wholegrain' to market its 50/50 loaf, thereby taking advantage of a legal loophole. While the use of 'wholemeal' is regulated in the UK, the use of 'wholegrain' is not. The Campaign continues to lobby for a legal definition as part of its proposed Honest Crust Act.


PA = local authority with Primary Authority relationship with the company for trading standards.

23 October 2023: We published a statement sent by Defra to trading standards officers, which confirms the practice of using the word wholemeal in the name or marketing of a product made using white flour breaches the Bread and Flour Regulations.

20 October 2023: It has come to our attention that Lidl uses the word wholemeal in the marketing of its Rowan Hill brand Two In One White & Wholemeal, so we have written to the CEO.

16 October 2023: Enfield sent us a statement from Defra (see 23 October update above), adding: "I will send a copy of this advice to Warburtons production centre in Enfield, and to the head office, and copy in the local authority where the head office is based. The advice from DEFRA is guidance only and states that only a court can give a true legal interpretation. To date, there have not been any amendments to the Bread and Flour Regulations 1998 to include improvement notices."

5 October 2023: We replied to Bucks and Surrey.

4 October 2023: Bucks and Surrey replied: "We are currently reviewing independent legal advice that has been taken by the Primary Authority business regarding the issue

As it is a sector wide matter we also understand that a position paper is currently being drawn up by industry/trade associations for our information and consideration 

We are also mindful the government response to the BFR consultation is overdue and anticipate they will cover discussion of statute changes and disposal routes when that is published.

Therefore we consider it prudent for us to have all this information available before considering any next steps. We will of course update you on further developments"

2 October 2023: We asked each of the officers responsible for the Primary Authority relationship for trading standards with Aldi, Hovis, Jacksons, Waitrose and Warburtons for an update on their investigations into our complaints.

24 August 2023: Enfield replied: "Unfortunately X is the person that has contacted DEFRA and I do not have access to her emails so I am unable to anser this in her absence.  I will ask X to contact you and advise on her return." We asked when that would be.

23 August 2023: Surrey/Bucks advised they'd had a response from Defra regaring the Hovis product and were due to discuss with company in September.

18 August 2023: Peterborough responded: "I have confirmed with Defra that there are no plans to alter [Article 6] in forthcoming revision [of the Bread and Flour Regulations], when that arises.  I have raised the matter with Aldi, and advised the regulation is not going to change.  I understand they will be discussing with their suppliers, and I have asked for a response when the people return from holidays."

The officer added: "I am a member of the local authority officer national group so I will raise this at the meeting in September. It will be good to ensure a common understanding of the BFR and equally common compliance." 

18 August 2023: We asked Peterborough (Aldi's PA), Surrey/Buckinghamshire (Hovis' PA), Hull (Jacksons' PA) and Enfield (Warburtons' PA) for updates.

17 August 2023: As part of our reply to Defra's latest rejection of our Honest Crust Act proposals, we challenged their position on wholemeal and wholegrain, saying: "The experts responsible for protection of people across the UK do not have the tools they need to be able to make decisions without referring back to your department. Is this not enough to convince you of our assertion that current standards are not fit for purpose and so need updating and improving?"

24 July 2023: Regarding the regulation of the word wholemeal, the Minister of State at Defra wrote: "we are not planning any changes at this time. The enforcement of the Bread and Flour Regulations 1998 is a matter for local authorities or indeed a court in the case of disputes. Defra officials have engaged with local authorities who have contacted us on this matter."

23 July 2023: In corresondence about the company's Stamford St. tortillas, Oxfordshire County Council advised: "the [Sainsbury's Both in One] product will also be subject to a relabelling exercise."

5 July 2023: A trading standards officer at Oxfordshire County Council, responsible for the Primary Authority relationship with Sainsbury's, wrote: 'I will need to look into the matter and speak to the business. Once that has happened I will get back to you with my conclusions.'

29 June 2023: Sainsbury's CEO office replied: "It is our view that the labelling of “Both in One” bread is not misleading the customer. The name of the bread is “Both in One” and does not reference wholemeal.  Whilst the description of the bread contains reference to the use of wholemeal flour, it is also exceptionally clear that the product is a white bread made from a blend of white and wholemeal flour. The wholemeal flour we use is 100% wholemeal and meets the definition set out in the Bread and Flour Regulations."

We, therefore, sent our complaint to the trading standards department of Oxfordshire County Council, which Sainsbury’s advised has Primary Authority relationship with the company.

27 June 2023: As we have not had a satisfactory response from Sainsbury’s, we asked them the appropriate Primary Authority  with which to raise our complaint. The BEIS register lists three local authorities that have this relationship with Sainsbury’s regarding trading standards.

19 June 2023: As more than 20 working days had passed since we sent our sourfaux code letter to the Secretary of State and Minister of State at Defra, we followed it up for answers. We took the opportunity also to ask for an update of Defra's review of Article 6 of the Bread and Flour Regulations on the use of the word wholemeal. 

16 June 2023: Enfield Council wrote: "I can forward the enquiry to DEFRA advising we have a large baker affected by the outcome of the policy review and to ask that they advise us on the outcome of the decision, this is no problem. This enquiry is logged so is recoverable when the next inspection at Warburtons is due. I’ll keep a note in my diary to keep checking back online in case it is updated by DEFRA in the meantime."

15 June 2023: Peterborough City Council acknowledged receipt of our complaint about Aldi. It had been passed on by South Cambridge District Council, the most recent port of call on its lengthy journey, on account of Peterborough handling food standards and safety for the Cambridgeshire & Peterborough Trading Standards partnership.

"As you will no doubt realise Aldi have their branded products made for them and this will come from one of the plant bakeries and I suspect that bakery will also make a similar product under other brands.  I will pick this up with them and discuss the current position for themselves and any cross-industry implications.  

I will respond to you when I have established the position.  I appreciate that your intentions are to ensure compliance with the law, which is all part of the Primary Authority partnership work that we do.  I am sorry that there has been a time delay but we will raise this matter although I cannot promise a quick response."

A month since the most recent response from the office of the CEO of Sainsbury's, we again asked him for answers to our questions. Just over an hour later, his office replied: "Our Both in One bread is clearly labelled as a white loaf with a blend of white and wholemeal flour. We do not refer to the product as a wholemeal loaf on pack or in any marketing materials." We pointed ot that this is exactly the point we are making: Article 6 of The Bread and Flour Regulations 1998 prohibits the use of the word wholemeal, whether or not qualified by other words, in the labelling or advertising of bread unless all the flour used is wholemeal. The Regulations do not say a company is permitted to advertise a 50% white flour product as ‘sliced white bread with a blend of white and wholemeal flour’ and prominently declare it to be ‘a blend of white and wholemeal flour’ on the front-of-pack labelling.

14 June 2023: More than two weeks after LB Waltham Forest forwared our complaint about Aldi to South Cambridge District Council, we asked the latter for a status update and timescale for resolution.

We also followed up with Hull for their answer to an unanswered question, as well as asking if they have contacted Defra for the guidance they say they need from government in order to assess our complaint.

13 June 2023: After many months of local authorities (including LB Tower Hamlets, Bolton Council, Wakefield Council and West Yorkshire Joint Services) declining to investigate the Real Bread Campaign's complaint about the Warburtons product, batting the case back and forth between them, Enfield took responsibility for it at last.

"We received your enquiry on referral from Bolton Council regarding Warburtons Half and Half product manufactured in Enfield in January and have continued to monitor the outcome of the consultation by DEFRA. DEFRA are the government department who set policy in this area which is followed by local authorities. They are reviewing the use of the term wholemeal to describe the ingredient in half and half bread, and the requirements of the Bread and Flour Regulations which do not permit the use of the term ‘wholemeal’ on products where other non-wholemeal flour is used. I have reviewed this again today but there is no further information from DEFRA at this time. Please be advised that we will take appropriate action based on DEFRA’s decision when they publish their guidance."

We replied to this apparently passive stance by asking the trading standards officer had contacted Defra to advise that they feel unable to handle the complaint until the department has made a decision.

30 May 2023: Almost six months after we first contacted LB Waltham Forest on the advice of LB Tower Hamlets, the former responded that they are not in fact the Primary Authority for Aldi and had forwarded our 7 December 2022 complaint to South Cambridge District Council.

Bolton again asserted that, despite Warburtons being headquartered in their area, they do not have a Primary Authority relationship with the company. We replied: "If none of Bolton City Council (where Warburtons is based); LB Enfield or WYJS (where the company manufactures products); or LB Tower Hamlets (where Warburtons products are sold and we are based) is responsible for trading standards and food safety issues regarding the company, which local authority is?"

26 May 2023: New call for wholemeal law clarity. Hull trading standards echoes the Real Bread Campaign’s call to Government.

25 May 2023: We chased LB Waltham Forest and Bolton/WYJS for responses. 

24 May 2023: We chased Sainsbury's for a response.

18 May 2023: We chased Hull for a response.

15 May 2023: Sainsbury's CEO office replied: "Please be assured, we take compliance with the Bread and Flour regulations very seriously. The restrictions to the word ‘wholemeal’ were designed to protect the definition of wholemeal bread. Our Both in One bread is clearly labelled as a white loaf with a blend of white and wholemeal flour. We believe that this meets the requirements of Regulation No 1169/2011 on the provision of food information to consumers. We do not refer to the product as a wholemeal loaf on pack or in any marketing materials." 

We responded by pointing out that Sainsbury's does use the word ‘wholemeal’ in both the labelling and advertising of this product. This includes the phrase 'a blend of white and wholemeal flour' directly below the product name on the pack, and on the product page on the company's website. 

11 May 2023: We emailed Bolton and Sainbury's to ask for updates and escalated the case to the cabinet member LB Waltham Forest responsible for trading standards.

10 May 2023: We received a reply from a trading standards officer in Hull and asked for clarification on a few points.

4 April 2023: Defra replied to our email of 22 March.

27 March 2023: We again asked LB Waltham Forest for an update.

22 March 2023: As it has come to our attention that Sainsbury's also uses the word in the marketing of its Both in One products, we have written to the CEO. See also: Honest Crust Act: March 2023 update

17 March 2023: We asked West Yorkshire Joint Services for an update on the Warburtons case. They replied that, while one of the 13 manufacturing sites for Warburtons is in West Yorkshire, the technical team responsible for labelling policy and approval is based in Bolton. They advised that they had passed the case back to Bolton Council on 26 January. We sent Bolton the reply from WYJS, asking them yet again for an update.

15 March 2023: Bolton Council's Environmental Health team repeated that they are not the Primary Authority for Warburtons, this time adding that on 24 January, the forwarded the case to both Enfield and Wakefield councils. On 25 January, Wakfield advised Bolton that they had passed the case to West Yorkshire Joint Services.

10 March 2023: We followed up with the trading standards departments, asking for an update. An officer in Hull replied that they are still waiting to receive the results of tests on samples they sent to the public analyst in January.

25 January 2023: Reviewing the Real Bread Campaign's complaint about Hovis using the word wholemeal to market a half white loaf, which the authority had prevsiously rejected, Buckinghamshire & Surrey Trading Standards referred the issue to Defra for ‘greater clarity’. 

19 January 2023: Having been advised by LB Tower Hamlets that Bolton Council is the Primary Authority for Warburtons, we sent our complaint on 7 December 2022. Today, an officer at Bolton replied that they are not and offered to forward our complaint to the relevant local authority, which we accepted, asking them to confirm which authority that is.

16 January 2023: Following the Real Bread Campaign complaint, Iceland has withdrawn its '50% White and Wholemeal' loaf. We again wrote to the trading standards teams Bolton Metropolitan Borough Council, Hull City Council and London Borough of Waltham Forest, asking for an update on the cases we raised with regard to Aldi, Jacksons and Warburtons.

Hull CC replied: "Samples have been submitted to the Public Analyst lab so results will come in due course."

11 January 2023: Surrey CC again rejected our complaint about Hovis Best of Both on the grounds that 'the product descriptive name is sufficiently clear' and that the Regulations say the word wholemeal can be used if all of the wholemeal flour used is wholemeal. As the Regulations do not contain the first caveat or phrase 'all of the wholemeal flour' (the wording is 'all the flour') on 12 January we followed the TS officer's suggestion of raising a complaint about their handling of the case.

3 January 2023: We replied to the trading standards officer at Surrey County Council, thanking them for the update, asking them to explain how they believe that no further action is necessary about Hovis using the word wholemeal to market a product in which only HALF of the flour is wholemeal, when official guidance and (more importantly) the Bread and Flour Regulations 1998 do not provide exception or allowance for the use of the word wholemeal if ANY of the flour is white / non-wholemeal.

23 December 2022: A response from a trading standards officer at Surrey County Council ended: "Therefore, we have concluded consumers have sufficient information on pack to make an informed decision when buying the Best of Both product and would not be misled into thinking it is fully wholemeal loaf but contains 50% 'wholemeal flour'. We have therefore concluded no further action is possible in this matter."

15 December 2022: A member of LB Barnet's trading standards team wrote: "I have been advised by Iceland that their 50:50 bread will no longer be marketed after this month."

13 December 2022: A trading standards officer at Hull City Council wrote: "I shall test purchase [Jacksons Blooming Both] and submit to the Public Analyst for comment. This may take some time for the results to be received but I will contact you with the outcome."

We replied, thanking them for the update and suggesting that as well as / instead of sending the product for analysis, they might find the information on Jacksons website useful. The QUID on the ingredients list clearly shows that not all of the flour used as an ingredient is wholemeal flour.

8 December 2022: The lead officer at Barnet Council for their Primary Authority partnership with Iceland replied: "Its not an issue I was aware of.  I will seek the company’s views on this and advise that we agree with your points. I must point out that in our capacity as Primary Authority Partners to Iceland we are not in an enforcement role. If formal enforcement is expected you will need to contact a local authority Environmental or Trading Standards Team and make your complaint to them. However, I would hope we can reach a compliant position without that recourse." We replied thanking them and pointing out that it was an officer at our local authority {LA) who advised we needed to raise the issue with Iceland's Primary Authority, along with our offer of passing on contact details so that the two LA's can liaise on the case.

We also received a response from a trading standards officer at Hull City Council, the Primary Authority for Jacksons. It said simply: "The matter is receiving attention and an officer will contact you in due course."

7 December 2022: We sent emails to raise our concerns with the trading standards departments with Primary Authority relationships with the five companies in question. We also followed up with Defra.

26 September 2022: Defra replied to the Campaign's email.

17 August 2022: After we followed Citizens Advice's advice to raise the issue with the FSA, the FSA Helpline replied: "With regard to your enquiry please contact the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) as they have the lead policy in labelling." We did as advised.

16 August 2022: Citizens Advice replied: " Trading Standards are not accessible to the public there is no direct contact number or contact details for them to contact." They added: "Trading Standards would look into the business practices, however you may have more luck in raising this with the Food Standards Agency here as they regulate the food industry in the UK." We followed this advice.

8 August 2022: We asked for a contact email address in order to forward the full details of the case to whichever trading standards officer/department was dealing with this, and so that we can find out the progress and outcome of their investigation. 

25 July 2022: Citizens Advice wrote: "We will refer the information you have provided to Trading standards, there is no commitment for them to contact you directly, Trading Standards will only contact you if they deem it necessary. Whilst this does not help you resolve your dispute, it gives Trading Standards vital intelligence on how a trader is conducting their business."

19 July 2022: The course of action suggsted by Tower Hamlets' food safety team would mean pursuing five separate complaints with five different local authorities on this single issue. Instead, we raised it with Citizens Advice consumer service, in the hope that they will act on it as a single complaint.

11 July 2022: We received this response from Tower Hamlets' food safety team: "While you are based in Tower Hamlets, the companies you are referring to are not so you would need to raise any concerns you have with the local authorities in which they are based."

7 July 2022: Having not had a satisfactory (and, in three cases, any) response from the companies, we wrote to the trading standards department of the local authority where the Campaign office is located, asking them to investigate.

4 July 2022: Aldi's second response was: "I can advise that following your contact, the artwork has been reviewed in great detail to ensure that it coincides with the Bread and Flour regulations. The word ‘wholemeal’ is in reference to the flour with white flour also being listed as an ingredient. We do not refer to the product as a wholemeal loaf. I hope the above information reassures you that we take customer feedback seriously and will always aim to mitigate any concerns."

27 June 2022: We wrote back to Hovis and Aldi, asking each company how they reconcile section 6 of the Bread and Flour regulations, which prohibits the use of the word wholemeal in the marketing of a product unless 100% of the flour is wholemeal, with using the word prominently to market a product in which half of the flour is white.

24 June 2022: Representatives of two companies responded.

"Thank you for contacting Aldi regarding our Village Bakery Both In One loaf. Following receipt of your email I reached out to our Quality Assurance department and have been informed the artwork is not in breach of the regulations as the loaf itself is a blend of white and wholemeal flour and this is clearly labelled on the packaging." 

"Food labelling in the UK is highly regulated to protect consumers and to ensure they acquire accurate information about the product they are about to purchase. In line with the food industry, our labelling conforms to the relevant UK and EU legislation.Given the strict regulations around labelling and any Health and Nutrition claims made on our packaging, it would be impossible for [Hovis] to knowingly mislabel our products."

23 June 2022: We wrote again to all of the CEOs, asking them to either answer our questions, or at least advise when they will.

See also

Published Thursday 9 June 2022

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