Labelling bread and flour

The law relating to the labelling of bread and flour is governed by the Bread and Flour Regulations 1998.

Composition of flour

The Regulations contain specific requirements as to the composition of flour derived from wheat. Unless the flour is wholemeal flour, self-raising flour which has a calcium content of not less than 0.2% or is wheat malt flour the flour must contain the following ingredients:

  • between 235 and 390 milligrams per hundred grams of flour of calcium carbonate, which must conform with certain criteria;
  • at least 1.65 milligrams per hundred grams of flour of iron (there are certain criteria which must be met as to the composition of iron);
  • at least 0.24 milligrams per hundred grams of flour of thiamin (vitamin B1), which again must meet certain criteria; and
  • at least 1.60 milligrams per hundred grams of flour of nicotinic acid or nicotinamide, which again must meet certain criteria.

The sale or import of any flour which does not comply with these requirements is prohibited. However, the Regulations do not apply to the sale and importation of flour for use in the manufacture of communion wafers, matzos, gluten, starch or any concentrated preparation of calcium carbonate, iron, thiamine, nicotinic acid and nicotinamide.

Additional ingredients

The Regulations prohibit the use of flour bleaching agents and flour treatment agents as an ingredient in the preparation of flour and bread unless the agent used is of a type specifically permitted by the Regulations.

The types of flour bleaching agents and flour treatment agents permitted by the Regulations are as follows:

  • E220 sulphur dioxide (this is permitted in relation to flour used in the manufacture of biscuits and pastry except for wholemeal. However, the total quantity cannot exceed 200 millgrams per kilogram of flour);
  • E223 sodium metabisuphite (this is permitted in relation to flour used in the manufacture of biscuits and pastry except for wholemeal. However, the total quantity cannot exceed 200 millgrams per kilogram of flour);
  • E300 L-ascorbic acid (this is permitted in relation to all flour except wholemeal and all bread. However, the total quantity cannot exceed 200 millgrams per kilogram of flour);
  • 920 L-cystenine hydrochloride (this is permitted in relation to all flour used in the manufacture of biscuits, except wholemeal or flour to which E220 sulphur dioxide or E223 sodium metabisuplhite has been added. However, the total quantity cannot exceed 30 millgrams per kilogram of flour. It is also permitted in relation to other flour, except for wholemeal flour and all bread apart from wholemeal bread. However, the total quantity cannot exceed 75 millgrams per kilogram of flour);
  • 925 chlorine (this is permitted in relation to all flour used in the manufacture of cakes other than wholemeal flour. However, the total quantity cannot exceed 2,500 millgrams per kilogram of flour);
  • Chlorine dioxide (this is permitted in relation to all flour apart from wholemeal flour and all bread apart from wholemeal bread. However, the total quantity cannot exceed 30 millgrams per kilogram of flour).

Permitted flour bleaching agents and flour treatment agents must be listed as an ingredient where bread is marked or labelled with a list of ingredients or on a label, ticket or notice if the bread is not marked or labelled with a list of ingredients.

Use of the words “wholemeal” and “wheat germ”

The use of the word “wholemeal” in relation to the labelling and advertising of bread is prohibited unless all the flour used is wholemeal.

The use of the words “wheat germ” in relation to the labelling and advertising of bread is only permitted if the bread contains a content of at least 10 per cent added processed wheat germ calculated on the dry matter of the bread.

Exemptions

The Regulations do not generally apply to food which is not intended for sale for human consumption and do not apply in relation to certain products imported into Great Britain.

For the purpose of the Regulations the definition of bread does not extend to buns, bunloaves, chapattis, chollas, pitta bread, potato bread or bread specially prepared for celiac sufferers.

Offences and penalties

Where a person contravenes the Regulations they commit a criminal offence and may be fined.

However, there is a defence where it can be shown that the flour or bread to which the offence relates was intended for export to a country which has similar regulations and that the flour or bread in question complies with those regulations.