Industry bread code leaves sour taste

A row is developing over a proposal to set new criteria for the labelling of sourdough bakery products in the UK market.

A group of five industry bodies has drawn up a new code of practice that aims to clarify the term sourdough and prevent misinformation when it is applied to products in the UK bakery market.

The Real Bread Campaign, however, has reacted angrily to the document that was sent to Defra earlier this year, calling it “a cheats’ charter that attempts to legitimise abusing people’s growing love of sourdough by hijacking the word”.

In particular, it claims that the code would permit the use of processing aids, other additives, baker's yeast and other leavening agents that help to simplify the process, none of which is used in making “genuine sourdough bread”.

In the document, the industry coalition, which includes the Federation of Bakers and the Association of Bakery Ingredient Manufacturers, points to a recent revival in the market for sourdough bakery products with new product developments using sourdough technology and ingredients also on the increase.

It adds that “it is not at all certain that the majority of the UK bread-buying public are aware of what sourdough is, how it is produced, or what its typical characteristics should be”.

There are, as yet, no regulations or codes of practice that govern the nature, production and labelling of sourdough products in the UK market.

The proposed code would permit the addition of commercial compressed bakers’ yeast, or the equivalent level of cream, liquid, dried or frozen yeast.

The Real Bread Campaign, however, is calling for improved legislation that would include a clear, legal definition of sourdough bread as made without any additives and leavened only by a live sourdough starter culture.

It is proposing that Defra rejects the proposed code, about which it says “shoppers, consumer organisations and the majority of Britain’s genuine sourdough bakers” were not consulted.

“We believe that the industrial loaf fabricators’ proposed code undermines the integrity of the word sourdough with muddled meanings that would make things more, not less, confusing for shoppers,” said Real Bread Campaign coordinator Chris Young. “Its adoption would create a sourfaux free-for-all, which would also have a negative impact on Real Bread bakeries of all sizes that bake genuine sourdough.”

Gordon Polson, chief executive of the Federation of Bakers, told Footprint: “A draft of the ‘Baking Industry Code of Practice for the Labelling of Sourdough Bread and Rolls’ has been presented to Defra. We look forward to discussing it with Defra as an important step in helping with labelling sourdough following guidelines which have been established in other EU countries.”

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