It could be said that food law all started with bread. The Assize of Bread and Ale 1266, to be precise, is acknowledged to be the earliest food legislation. This early and much later legislation well into the nineteenth century sought to ensure that bread was neither adulterated nor sold under weight. In more recent times, while quantity or weight continues to be regulated under the Weights and Measures Act 1985, the focus has shifted to the use of fortified flour and industrial loaf production.
Over the last 60 years, the number of small craft bakeries with fewer than eight employees has fallen from around 18,000 to just 3,500. About 80% of bread made in the UK today is produced by a small number of industrial scale companies using the Chorleywood Bread Process (CBP):
CBP replaces natural fermentation time with high-speed mixing and higher levels of yeast than traditional recipes to inflate the dough. The mix is laced with a whole range of chemical additives (and increasingly, added enzymes), which perform a variety of functions, including making the dough conform to the stresses of the process; to become stretchy to rise high and quickly and then to tighten up to stay risen; and help the finished loaf to stay softer longer.1
A further 15-17% of bread is produced in supermarket in-store bakeries to a standard which is little better than the CBP, leaving 3-5% of small craft bakeries to produce the rest, not all of whom make ‘Real Bread’ which is defined by The Real Bread Campaign2 as being made with, and only with:
Yeast (bakers’ or naturally occurring)
We are, however, witnessing a renaissance of the artisan craft baker. New local bakeries have sprung up all over the country and their numbers continue to grow, although it would take quite some time to reach the 25,000 bakeries (somewhat fewer than exist in France, a similar sized country) employing the 75,000 bakers that would be needed to provide enough bread for all our needs.3
The long standing mandatory addition of certain nutrients (calcium, iron, thiamine and niacin) to flour is dealt with in Fortification of Flour and Wood Fired Ovens covers the vexed question of wood fired ovens in smoke control areas.
The remainder of this document highlights specific bread-related legal requirements which should be read in conjunction with relevant topics of the law of more general application to food. In particular, Packaging and Labelling, Food Preparation and Temperature Controls, Claims and Nutrition, and Quantity and Price Marking.
2 Bread Weights
The marking of food with statements of quantity by weight or other measurement or by number is governed by and under the Weights and Measures Act 1985.4 In the case of bread the Weights and Measures (Miscellaneous Foods) Order 19885 made under the 1985 Act apply.
In 2007 Directive 2007/45/EC, laying down rules on nominal quantities for pre-packed products,6 removed all specified quantities for most such products across Europe in favour of quantity labelling. Unwrapped bread fell outside the scope of the Directive until public consultation demonstrated widespread support for the deregulation of specified quantities of unwrapped bread.7
The majority of real bread is sold unwrapped which, for the purposes of the 1988 Order means a loaf of bread which is not made up in advance ready for retail sale or wholesale in a securely closed container and includes bread offered for sale in a confining band.8
An unwrapped loaf may be made for sale only where:
An indication of the quantity of the bread is given on a ticket displayed in immediate proximity to that loaf; or
There is displayed, in such a position and manner as to be readily available without special request for inspection by a buyer before any sale is made, a notice listing the forms in which unwrapped loaves of bread are made for sale and indicating the quantity or quantities in which each such form is made for sale.9
The above requirements do not apply to an unwrapped loaf in a quantity of 400g or a multiple of 400g, those that weigh 300g or less and any sale under a contract for the supply of bread for consumption on the premises of the buyer if the contract provides for each delivery of bread to be of a specified aggregate quantity of not less than 25 kg and for the weighing of the bread on delivery.10
The intention laying behind these provisions was that:
This will give greater freedom to bakers or retailers to make up and sell unwrapped loaves in any quantity and will bring the sale of unwrapped loaves into line with prepackaged bread where the specified quantities have already been deregulated. However, there will be no additional burdens on bakers or retailers as there is no requirement to offer new sizes and information on quantity will only be required where new sizes are introduced (i.e. any size other than 400 g or a multiple of 400 g).11
3 Names and Labelling
3.1 The Bread and Flour Regulations 1998
Wholemeal flour is flour at 100% extraction, white roller milled flour is around 72%-75% extraction and brown flour is somewhere in the middle at 80-85% extraction.
There are restrictions under The Bread and Flour Regulations 199814 on the use of the words ‘wholemeal’ and ‘wheat germ’ so that in the labelling or advertising of bread there must not be used, 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 word ‘wheat germ’ unless the bread has an added processed wheat germ content of not less than 10% calculated on the dry matter of the bread.15
The term ‘flour’ means the product derived from, or separated during, the milling or grinding of cleaned cereal whether or not the cereal has been malted or subjected to any other process, and includes meal, but does not include other cereal products, such as separated cereal bran, separated cereal germ, semolina or grits. This definition means that ingredients such as soya flour may be included since soya is a bean and not a cereal.16
The term “wholemeal” is not defined in law, however it is generally accepted that wholemeal flour is the entire wheat grain, which contains the bran and the germ.17
It is an offence if any person sells or advertises for sale any bread in contravention of these provisions punishable on summary conviction with a fine not exceeding level 5 on the standard scale.18 So far as other terms are concerned:
Other descriptions of bread, such as “white”, “brown”, “stone-ground” are not specifically prescribed by law. However, the use of such descriptions will be subject to the rules of the Food Labelling Regulations 1996 – “where there is no name prescribed by law for a food, the name used must be sufficiently precise to inform the purchaser of the true nature of the food and must not mislead”.19
3.2 Food Labelling Regulations 1996
The general labelling requirements under The Food Labelling Regulations 199620 apply to bread and flour packaging which means the inclusion of the following details:
The legal name (for example, ‘white bread’ and ‘white flour’ and any additional terms that may be necessary for a legal name).
A list of ingredients which clearly refers to any ingredients subject to allergen labelling.21
The appropriate durability indication, a ‘best before’ date for flour.22
Any special storage condition or condition of use.
The name and address of either or both of the manufacturer or packer, or seller.
Particulars of the place of origin if failure to give it would be likely to mislead consumers.
Loaf and flour weight.23
Flour to which no substances have been added other than those (calcium, iron, thiamine and niacin) which are required to be present in the flour24 is exempt from the requirement to list ingredients.25
3.3 Gluten Free and Allergen Labelling
Foods claiming to be either ‘gluten free’ or ‘very low gluten’ are governed by new standards set out in Regulation (EC) 41/2009 concerning the composition and labelling of foodstuffs suitable for people intolerant to gluten and covered in The Foodstuffs Suitable for People Intolerant to Gluten (England) Regulations 201026 which came into effect on 1 January 2012 and covers all foods whether pre-packed, sold loose or offered on a restaurant menu.
A ‘gluten-free’ food may contain no more than 20 parts per million of gluten.
A ‘very low gluten’ food may contain no more than 100 parts per million of gluten but only foods with cereal ingredients that have been specially processed to remove gluten may make a ‘very low gluten’ claim.
If food does not comply with these requirements it cannot be described as ‘gluten-free’ or ‘very low gluten’ but factual statements may be made such as, where it is the case, ‘no gluten-containing ingredients’ and gluten has not been intentionally added, but care must be taken to manage possible cross-contamination from foods that contain gluten. The phrase ‘suitable for coeliacs’ can only be used in conjunction with the terms ‘gluten-free’ or ‘very low gluten’ and not on its own.
Roughly 1 in a 100 people suffer from gluten intolerance (coeliac disease) and so must avoid eating foods that contain gluten, a protein found in cereals such as wheat, rye and barley, which can damage the lining of the small intestine and prevent the absorption of nutrients in those who suffer from the condition. Research has shown that sufferers may safely eat low levels of gluten at no more than 20 parts per million.
Gluten may be present as an ingredient or by accidental cross-contamination as a result of a food coming into contact with ingredients containing gluten used in the same premises. The new standards improve the quality of information available to people who suffer from gluten intolerance in choosing food.
The current allergen legislation28, which implements Directive 2003/89/EC as regards the indication of the ingredients present in foodstuffs, lists ‘spelt’ as a cereal containing gluten29 and as a consequence a product containing spelt cannot be labelled ‘gluten free’. Furthermore, it may be misleading to label a product containing spelt as ‘wheat free’ since spelt is a type of wheat (Triticum spelta) which makes spelt unsuitable for anyone with a wheat allergy or intolerance.
1 Real Bread Campaign, Knead to Know: The Real Bread Starter, Sustain, 2011, p11
2 Ibid., p11
3 Whitley A and Parsons K, ‘How many Real Bread bakers does it take to change a food system?’, True Loaf, Issue 8, July-September 2011
5 SI 1988/2040 as amended by The Weights and Measures (Specified Quantities) (Unwrapped Bread and Intoxicating Liquor) Order 2011 SI 2011/2331, art 3
7 National Measurement Office, The Weights and Measures (Specified Quantities) (Unwrapped Bread and Intoxicating Liquor) Order 2011: Guidance for Business, Department for Business Innovation & Skills, Version 1, July 2011, p4, para 11
8 Weights and Measures (Miscellaneous Foods) Order 1988 SI 1988/2040, art 6(1) but refer to the link in note 5 above.
9 Ibid., art 6(2)
10 Ibid., art 6(3)
11 Op. cit., p5, para 13
14 SI 1998/141
17 Food Standards Agency, The Bread and Flour Regulations 1998 (As Amended): Guidance Notes, Version 1, June 2008, p6
19 Food Standards Agency (2008), p6
20 SI 1996/1499, r5
21 34B(1) and Schedule AA1, para 1
23 See section on ‘Bread Weights’ above.
26 SI 2010/2281
27 Food Standards Agency, Guidance on the Composition and Labelling of Foodstuffs Suitable for People Intolerant to Gluten, January 2012
28 The Food Labelling Regulations 1996 SI 1996/1499 as amended by the Food Labelling (Declaration of Allergens) (England) Regulations 2008 SI 2008/1188