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.” 

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