Bake Off judge Prue Leith's calls for better bread labelling are backed by Norfolk artisan bakers
PUBLISHED: 18:44 12 September 2017 | UPDATED: 13:55 13 September 2017
Norfolk’s artisan bakers have backed calls for clearer and fairer bread labelling, after a campaign was launched by Great British Bake Off judge Prue Leith.
The TV presenter and cookery writer is the patron of Sustain, the food and farming charity behind the Real Bread Campaign which is asking bread-lovers to sign a letter to environment secretary Michael Gove, calling for an “Honest Crust Act”.
The campaign says more precise legal definitions are needed to stop shoppers being misled by the inaccurate use of words and phrases including freshly-baked, wholegrain, and artisan.
It also calls for laws which require all bakers and retailers to display full lists of ingredients and any artificial additives, and for sourdough bread to be legally defined as “additive-free loaves leavened only using a culture of naturally-occurring yeast(s) and bacteria”.
Prue Leith said: “Of course we should know what’s in the bread we eat. The Real Bread Campaign’s call for better labelling legislation will also help small, local bakeries thrive.”
Supporters of the campaign include John “Grimsby” Watt, owner of Norwich artisan bakery Pye Baker, which has its main wholesale bakery on Aylsham Road, and a shop and cafe on Dereham Road.
“At the end of the day, I want the public to have the information they need to make the right decision,” he said. “Other big retailers should not be allowed to play with words and disguise what they are selling.
“I mean, what is an ‘artisan-style’ loaf? Is it bread in the style of someone who has really cared over it and spent the time on it? ‘Artisan’ is not a style. It should reflect the care that has gone into something.
“Making bread properly from scratch is very hard work, and we employ 30 people here, so of course as a business we want to see that protected. A supermarket with a machine that can make bread with one person shouldn’t be able to sell their product as the same thing.”
Mr Watt said in the ten years since he started his business in Norwich, the demand for sourdough loaves had risen from six a day to around 300 – and he said it was important that this style of bread had a clear definition.
He said: “At the end of the day, the Chorleywood Process, which is the fast way of making bread, is still alive and kicking and goes through all the supermarkets. By adding improvers to the dough to give it a high-speed mix, bread can be put into a tin and baked in less than an hour.
“That is how they can turn out millions of loaves. But they are adding a powdered culture to this and still calling it a sourdough.
“A proper sourdough should take hours to ferment naturally, sometimes it takes days. So if we are taking our time and doing slow baking, supermarkets shouldn’t be able to label something the same and get away with it.”
Tom Harding, the baker and proprietor at Dozen Artisan Bakery on Gloucester Street in Norwich, added: “I worked for 11 years in a supermarket bakery, so I know all the tricks. You get a lot of things which are “French-style” or “artisan-style” which are actually made in a big factory and shipped over part-baked to be finished for ten minutes in an oven over here – while we are working our socks off to produce something that is genuinely hand-made.
“We start at 2am every day and it is really hard work. I think people appreciate when something is made by hand, in-store, from scratch.
“I know that not everyone can afford to pay £4 for a loaf of bread. Some people will want cheaper loaves. There is plenty of room for everyone in the market, as long as everyone is honest about how it is done and what is put in.”
For more information on the campaign, see the Real Bread Campaign website.