Whole loaf of nonsense ingrained in bread marketing

People looking for healthy bread are being mislead by dubious labelling, a report published today says. The Real Bread Campaign is criticising bread retailers for using words such as “wholesome” or “wholegrain” to give the impression of health benefits that are not there. 

Research carried out on a selection of popular supermarket loafs showed that bread marketed as wholegrain could contain as little as 21% wholegrain. In one case, with Waitrose White & Wholegrain bread, it was found to contain merely 6% wholemeal flour.  

The report argues that consumers looking for the health benefits that foods with a high proportion of ‘whole’ or unrefined grain ingredients provide - such as a minimising the risk of stroke, type 2 diabetes, heart disease and obesity- are therefore being mislead.
A Wholemeal Loaf of Nonsense
Neither of the words “wholegrain” or “wholesome” have a legal definition in the UK, as opposed to the term wholemeal which guarantees that all the flour in the bread is wholemeal. But even there, the report found that wholemeal loaves often contained soya flour or powdered wheat gluten which is one of the most highly refined products of wheat- slipping between the fingers of regulation because soya comes from a bean.

The Real Bread Campaign wants the government to set stricter definitions to the bread marketing vocabulary and to make sure that contents are more clearly displayed on the packaging. At the moment, bread sold loose in in-store bakeries for example, have no obligation to label its ingredients or additives at all at the point of sale. 

More regulation would be welcome by the campaign group’s members who are independent bakers, making artisan bread. Eszter Dako, 36, the manager of Euphorium Bakery in London said: “That would be great for us. I’m sure we would have no problem with tighter rules, but the bigger supermarkets might suffer and that would bring us more customers.”

The Government’s Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) have already rejected the report’s proposals, saying there are already laws protecting consumers against misleading marketing. Neither did any of the seven trading standards departments confronted with the findings decide to investigate claims further.
Figures in the report say wrapped-sliced and supermarket in-store bakery loaves account for around 95-97 % of those bought in the UK. 

Gordon Paulson is the director of The Federation of Bakers, which represents the interests of the UK's largest baking companies who manufacture sliced and wrapped bread, bakery snacks and other bread products. He told the Guardian: “We are happy with the regulations as they stand. The consumer already has the necessary information they need about packaged bread available to them on the labels. And most importantly; all bread is pretty good, whether it is wholemeal or not. It’s still pretty good food.” 

Rana Plaza Tragedy Aftermath: International Safety Initiative Setting up Office in Dhaka

DHAKA, BANGLADESH. Justice is being promised for people making clothes for brands such as Primark and H&M by a new industry led initiative, but critics hail it as "business as usual". Maria Evrenos reports. 

A group of North American clothing companies established a new office in Dhaka this week to work locally on improving safety in Bangladesh's garment industry. Twenty-six companies, retailers and brands have united as The Alliance for Bangladesh Worker Safety (The Alliance), which has hired 15 staff to implement tougher safety checks on its supplying factories. “It is an honor to formalize our presence in Dhaka, which will help speed the achievement of our ambitious goals for garment factory safety,” said Jeffrey Krilla, President of the Alliance. 

The team will carry out worker and management safety training and will also scrutinise fire and structural safety in the factories were clothes for brands such as Primark and H&M are produced. 

Safety Issues
The problem is that hundreds of factories in Bangladesh are still found in converted residential buildings that are not fit for purpose or outright dangerous. “They often lack adequate fire escapes, alarms, first aid or fire-fighting equipment,” Jason Burke reported this week for The Guardian.

Pressure to deal with this issue has been mounting since the collapse of the Rana Plaza factory in April where over 1,100 lost their lives and many more were injured. And it’s not the only example where workers have been trapped and killed in Bangladesh factories in the recent year. 

Phil Bloomer, the Executive Director of the Business and Human Rights Resource Centre says global business lacks appropriate humanitarian safeguards: “The fact that those factories were locked and that people were desperate to get out; they knew their work was dangerous. To leave health and safety in the hands of those in H&M or GAP some 5 000 miles away, is not the way to deliver health and safety at the factory floor.” 

Labour right's developments this year
The Rana Plaza tragedy sparked a tumultuous year of progress for workers’ rights in Bangladesh. The Alliance’s new headquarters will open its doors in Dhaka only about a week after the minimum wage in Bangladesh was raised by 77%. It’s now 5,300 taka (£41) following a labor dispute where worker’s protests forced about 250 garment factories to close. Muhammad Rumee Ali, managing director of enterprises and investment at BRAC said this week: “Now is the time for us to unite efforts across business, government, and civil society to create a new, sustainable standard for worker safety throughout Bangladesh.” 

Different solutions - The Alliance Vs. The Accord

But the vision for the way forward is split. While the Alliance for Bangladesh Worker Safety doesn’t involve worker’s unions in its negotiations and prefers voluntary targets for improving safety, another group is developing alongside. The Accord on Fire and Building Safety in Bangladesh (The Accord) is a legally binding agreement between international trade unions, Bangladesh trade unions, and over a hundred international companies which is campaigning for more accountable change. They criticize the work of The Alliance for being business as usual. “The Walmart/Gap scheme [The Alliance] preserves the very model that has failed workers for years and led to nearly two thousand deaths.” 

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