The Real Bread Campaign published a report on Wednesday that accused industrial UK bread manufacturers of using 'wholemeal' and 'wholegrain' in a misleading way. The campaign called for regulation on both areas.
The Federation of Bakers whose members include Allied Bakeries, Hovis and Warburtons – brands implicated in the report – has called the findings “fundamentally flawed and misleading”.
Speaking to BakeryandSnacks.com, the director of the Federation of Bakers Gordon Polson said: “The report is fundamentally flawed because it tried to suggest there is misuse and there is none – and this has been substantiated by Defra and trading standard agencies.”
“At best this report is selective, at worst it is misleading,” Polson said.
“…Consumers know exactly what is in our bread because it’s wrapped and labeled…We tell the consumer what is in the bread and we are being maligned because we tell them this? That cannot be correct.
“…The starting point for this report was to try and find fault with large bakers, not find fault with the Bread and Flour regulations…It’s really just trying to denigrate wrapped bread and I don’t think it has succeeded in doing so – it fails on its objective,” he said.
The director said it is unfortunate that the report leads the consumer to think of bread as a category that is not good. “All bread is good, all bread is great – particularly wholemeal,” he said.
‘Some wholemeal is better than none’
Defending industry’s use of wholemeal with soya flour and wheat gluten, stating it was within regulations, Polson said: “We are losing the point here. What we are trying to do by using wholemeal flour is get more consumers to eat wholemeal.”
The director cited the example of 50/50 white and wholemeal breads; made to encourage more consumers, particularly children, to eat wholemeal.
“…Even with soya flour and wheat gluten – which are only in tiny proportions – the health aspect and function is not negated. Are you saying we shouldn’t put salt in the bread either?”
“…At least some wholemeal is better than none,” he said.
Wholegrain legislation needed?
Responding to the Real Bread Campaigns call for legislation on wholegrain use in breads, the director said: “You would only really want to have legislation if abuse and misuse was going on, and I’m not aware of that.”
Polson said that members of the Federation of Bakers already follow voluntary guidelines issued by IGD in 2007 and revised in 2008. The guidelines state that for packaged foods wishing to communicate the presence of whole grains, for example ‘contains whole grains’ or ‘with whole grains’, there must be a minimum level of 8g wholegrain per serving.
The director noted that this recognized voluntary guidance is not written into the rules for members of the Federation and it is the responsibility of each manufacturer to follow it, but members do follow it.
“Bread manufacturers are very conscious of making sure they don’t make claims that are unjustified. They usually have a very close relationship with trading standards to ensure compliance,” he said.
A spokesperson for Warburtons told this site that it is in discussions with the Real Bread Campaign about the claims made within the report. Today, the Real Bread Campaign published an updated version of its report to include the ingredients of Warburtons' White Plus Wholegrain product that contains 30% wholegrains.
In an emailed statement to this site, Allied Bakeries said: "The report from the Real Bread Campaign ‘Wholegrain of truth?’ is both misinformed and misleading. The term ‘wholemeal’ is fully protected by law in the UK and if it says wholemeal bread on the bag, then you can be assured that it’s wholemeal bread in the bag. All of our products carry a full ingredient list so that consumers can make an informed choice.
"We fully support the findings of Defra and all of the Trading Standards departments who have reviewed this report and have confirmed that consumers are not being misled and that no action is required.
"Bread is a key part of the British diet and there is no reason why everyone should not continue to enjoy it as part of a healthy balanced diet."
Hovis declined to comment.
Defra outlines its stance
A spokesperson for the UK Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) told this site: “The term wholemeal can only be used if all the flour used as an ingredient in the preparation of the bread is wholemeal.
“Wholegrain isn’t defined specifically in UK or EU Regulations, but all food must comply with food labeling rules and should not mislead the consumer.
“Any concerns over food labeling should be reported to local trading standards officers.”