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Defra launches bread and flour consultation launched in the UK

Posted: 2 September 2022 | | No comments yet

The consultation will look at changing the bread and flour regulations that have been in place for more than 20 years, but some in the baking sector think it does not go far enough.

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A public consultation on updating the 1998 Bread and Flour Regulations has been launched in the UK, with consumers, millers and bakers, retailers and regulators from all four nations of the UK having their say.

The 12-week consultation, which launched on 1 September, is being led by Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra), in collaboration with The Department for Health and Social Care (DHSC), Food Standards Scotland (FSS) and the Food Standards Agency (FSA) in Wales and Northern Ireland (NI).

The consultation seeks views on proposals to make adjustments to the nutrients currently added to non-wholemeal wheat flour, and the addition of folic acid, with the aim of improving public health outcomes for Scotland and the wider UK population.

The addition of folic acid to help reduce the incidence of foetal neural tube defects follows a previous consultation and an agreement by the Scottish Government, UK Government and devolved administrations in Wales and Northern Ireland, to proceed with its mandatory fortification.

Folic acid to be added to UK flour to prevent birth defects

The package of proposals being put forward will lead to improved public health, support UK industry, assist enforcement authorities and protect consumers.

“This consultation marks an important stage in the process of ensuring that the regulations covering bread and flour in Scotland, and the rest of the UK, are fit for purpose and, critically, support public health,” said Geoff Ogle, Chief Executive Officer at FSS.

“A key part of this consultation is the addition of folic acid to help prevent foetal neural tube defects.  There is strong evidence that many such defects can be prevented by women increasing their intake of folic acid before conception and during the first 12 weeks of pregnancy.

“This consultation gives the public and stakeholders an opportunity to comment on all aspects of the proposed amendments to help shape the policy across the four nations.”

There is some frustration however that the consultation does not have the scope that some corners of the sector think it should.

The Real Bread Campaign, which is calling for stricter regulations on what retailers can say on bread labels, is disappointed with the consultation.

“We believe that current regulations are not fit for purpose, do not support small bakery owners and do not protect shoppers adequately. As the majority of people buy products sold as bread, we believe that ignoring their needs is an insult to practically everyone in the UK. Combined with the absence of adequate intervention and support in the face of skyrocketing costs, it feels like the government has chosen to abandon the owners of small Real Bread bakeries that help to keep our high streets alive,” said Real Bread Campaign coordinator Chris Young.

 “If the current review of legislation regulating the composition, labelling and marketing of flour and bread is neither the time or the place to consider our Honest Crust Act proposals to update and improve the regulation of the composition, labelling and marketing of bread then exactly when and where is?”

The consultation will close to the public on 23 November 2022, with the FSA confirming a summary of responses will be published in the months following.

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