UK – The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) has launched a 12-week public consultation on revising the 1998 Bread and Flour Regulations and called on consumers, millers and bakers, retailers, and regulators from all four of the UK’s nations to contribute.
Defra launched the consultation on September 1 together 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 purpose of the consultation is to gather feedback on suggestions for modifying the nutrients currently added to non-wholemeal wheat flour and the addition of folic acid to improve public health outcomes for the people of Scotland and the rest of the UK.
Following a prior consultation and agreement by the Scottish Government, UK Government, and devolved governments in Wales and Northern Ireland to move through with its required fortification, folic acid has been added to assist lower the incidence of fetal neural tube abnormalities.
The set of ideas being put forth will boost public health, aid UK businesses, support law enforcement, and safeguard 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.
He revealed that the inclusion of folic acid to help prevent fetal neural tube abnormalities was a crucial component of the consultation.
There is compelling evidence, he said, that by increasing their folic acid consumption before conception and for the first 12 weeks of pregnancy, women can reduce their risk of developing several of these birth abnormalities.
“This consultation allows the public and stakeholders to comment on all aspects of the proposed amendments to help shape the policy across the four nations,” Ogle stated.
However, some stakeholders in the baking sector have raised concern that the consultation is not all-inclusive, reports New Food.
“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.”
A good example is The Real Bread Campaign which is upset with the consultation and is pushing for more stringent rules on what bakeries can express on their labeling.
The campaign believes that current regulations are not fit for purpose as they do not support small bakery owners and do not adequately protect shoppers.
“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 Chris Young, Real Bread Campaign Coordinator.
He further wondered, “If the current review of legislation regulating the composition, labeling, and marketing of flour and bread is neither the time nor the place to consider our Honest Crust Act proposals to update and improve the regulation of the composition, labeling and marketing of bread then exactly when and where is?”
The FSA has announced that the public consultation will end on November 23, 2022, and that a summary of the replies will be published in the months that follow.