Real Bread Campaign coordinator Chris Young said Defra’s perspective is akin to a “real kick in the teeth” for the hundreds of independent bakers who help to feed the nation. The organisation has been lobbying for legal definitions and the introduction of the Honest Crust Act since 2015.
“It also shuns shoppers, who need better protection from incomplete labelling and what we see as unscrupulous marketing,” added Young.
The disappointing response was received by Sustain’s deputy CEO Ben Reynolds during a pre-recorded interview for the charity’s Annual Conference (The Real Bread Campaign is run by the charity Sustain, which campaigns for proper labelling so consumers knows what they're eating).
He asked Prentis, “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?”
Prentis replied Defra currently has 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,” she said.
“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.”
‘Glimmer of hope’
However, she did concede the department does have plans to review the regulations at some stage and would genuinely welcome comments from interested parties.
In a statement, Real Bread noted other common descriptors without legal definition in the UK include freshly-baked, fresh bread, artisan, heritage wheat and ancient grains.
UK retailers are not legally required to display ingredients lists for loaves and sandwiches they sell unwrapped, and can choose not to declare some additives (processing aids).
Italy, on the other hand, promulgated a labelling law in 2018, which enforces the legal names of baked goods according to processing criteria.