Criticism builds for Sustain campaign

By Rod Addy

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Baking, Bread

Criticism builds for Sustain campaign
Sustain's Real Bread Mark has been criticised by the plant baking industry for potentially demonising necessary additives and failing to recognise work already achieved to deliver clean-label bread.

Sustain promotes better food and farming practices. It launched the mark this month to promote bread made to artisan standards, using just flour, water, yeast and salt and no additives and dough fermented for at least four hours.

"I have no objections if it promotes bread made by independent, craft bakers," ​said Gordon Polson, director of the Federation of Bakers. "But they are trying to suggest there's something implicitly different in my members' bread. All bread is real bread."

Campaign manager Chris Young said the mark was directed at bread sold at all retail levels. "Small, local, independent bakeries is where the demand [for the mark] is coming from. But hopefully supermarkets will see the sales advantages."

Responding to suggestions by Sustain that unwrapped bread sold in supermarket instore bakeries should display ingredients used in it, Polson said: "Obviously according to legislation, wrapped bread has to state all ingredients and unwrapped doesn't, but the real difference is minimal."

Bakers Nicholas & Harris and Doves Farm Foods qualified for the Real Bread Mark, said Sustain, which claimed other bakers had expressed interest in using it on their packaging as well.

Greg Woodhead, new product development manager for bakery company Bakehouse, said it was impractical to insist mass-produced plant bread conformed to the same standards as artisan bread. "The problem is keeping dough hanging around for hours requires a humungous amount of space."

Sustain's mark also failed to recognise the work plant bakers had already done to replace synthetically produced additives with more natural alternatives, he added. "It runs the danger of demonising additives and playing on fears the food industry is putting ingredients into products for its own ends, at the expense of health.

"It does overlook the fact that the food industry is trying to draw a middle line between high quality consumer products made on a mass scale and moving towards more healthy foods. You are not going to be able to do that day in, day out without using additives."

He pointed out that the additive argument was not clear cut. For example, many bakers treat flour with ascorbic acid as a preservative. Otherwise known as vitamin C, it is naturally-derived, so it was unfair to question its use, he said.

Baking aids could be seen as a "mystical" area, he said. But natural aids such as rapeseed oil were often used to help prevent dough from sticking during processing.

The solution to consumer fears was to engage in proper debates about additives, he said.

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A response

Posted by Chris Young,

We created The Loaf Mark simply to help Real Bread bakers promote the fact that a loaf has been made using only natural food ingredients.

It is not intended as a substitute for all bakers and loaf retailers giving the customer a list of everything that was used to make a loaf, and we still call for legislation that requires this.

"… they are trying to suggest there's something implicitly different in my members' bread."

We don’t need to suggest or imply anything – it’s a fact. Real bread is made using only natural food ingredients. By contrast, Federation of Bakers members’ industrial loaves may be made using the likes of sodium stearoyl-2-lactylate, mono- and diacetyl tartaric acid esters of mono- and diglycerides of fatty acids, l-cysteine, calcium propionate, potassium sorbate, phospholipase, fungal alpha amylase, transglutaminase, xylanase, maltogenic amylase, hemicellulase.

Let’s look at an athlete on a natural diet and an athlete on a natural diet, plus a small quantity of anabolic steroids "to enhance the natural process". The "real difference is minimal", there too?

"The problem is keeping dough hanging around for hours …"

How can an intrinsic part of the natural process of bread making be a problem? That’s like saying that a foetus "hanging around"’ in the womb for months, or a tomato ripening on the vine are problematic. No – the problems arise when you start trying to force a baby to be born before term or eating a tomato before it’s ripe. Time is essential in bread making, not just for rising and flavour development, but other processes which could have effects on its nutritional value and digestibility. We’d rather see industry investing in researching these potential benefits, rather than new ways to cut corners.

As for certain additives being "naturally-derived", can all companies using ascorbic acid say hand on heart that it has all come from oranges and lemons, and not "D-glucose hydrogenated to D-sorbitol, followed by oxidation of the diacetone derivative of L-sorbose. The resulting diacetone-2-keto-l-gluconic acid is converted to L-ascorbic acid by heating with hydrochloric acid"? Or maybe "from glucose, sorbitol, sorbose, and 2-keto-gulonic acid by oxidation with hypochlorous acid in the presence of hydrous cobalt oxide catalyst."?

"… the danger of demonising additives and playing on fears the food industry is putting ingredients into products for its own ends, at the expense of health."

Sadly, consumer trust in the reassurances of industrial food producers has been dented by case after case of "safe" turning to "questionable" or even "unsafe". Cast your mind back to nitrogen trichloride, azodicarbonomide, benzoyl peroxide, potassium bromate, sunset yellow FCF, quinoline yellow, carmoisine, allura red, tartrazine, ponceau 4R … Sometimes a ban or voluntary withdrawal may only come many years after evidence of the risk was published – just look at the case of trans fats in hydrogenated lipids.

"The solution to consumer fears was to engage in proper debates about additives …"

Or, more simply, by baking Real Bread.

We’d be happy to see a proper debate on additives, the prerequisite for which is full disclosure about exactly what is going into the manufacture of loaves (especially in these "clean-label" times), where they have come from (eg any GMO in the chain, there?) and what tests have (and haven’t) been done on the effects on people over time of the various additive cocktails.

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