‘Leaving the EU will provide us with opportunities to review our food rules, but at the moment we are rightly focussed on preparedness for leaving the EU,’ he wrote, adding the introduction of a legal definition of sourdough will also not happen until after Brexit.
However, Gove made note of the challenges in putting together an industry code of practice to define a traditionally made UK sourdough given the wide-range of interpretations.
‘I anticipate similar difficulties of constructing and enforcing legislation around a strict definition of a currently unregulated term.’
The two-page letter to the Campaign’s coordinator Chris Young illustrated the department’s pledge to ensure that consumers have ‘clear and accurate information’ about the food they buy.
‘It is imperative that all UK consumers have complete trust in the food they are eating,’ wrote Gove.
‘Bread is the most popular item purchased by UK households, according to 2018 figures, with over 130 million slices of bread bought and made from British flour every day.’
The Secretary of State’s response to the Real Bread Campaign’s call for a full ingredient listing on all loaves stated, that, while he appreciated that ‘specialist bakeries may proudly display their use of just four key ingredients of signage’ … ‘these do not represent the full range of bread products on the market.’
‘In most cases, the labelling rules laid down by EU regulation 1169/2011 and the Food Safety Act ensure sufficient protection but also allow for innovation.’
He added the current regulation (EU Regulation 1332/2008) was developed to harmonize the rules across the EU around the safety and use of food additives in food.
‘When considering any legislative change, we must ensure we are regulating for the right reasons, to protect consumers and ensure a level playing field for industry.’
Urgency of food allergen review
In light of recent tragic events, Gove highlighted the urgency of the review of food allergen legislation.
‘A thorough review is currently underway to determine how we can strengthen the current legislative framework on allergens,’ he wrote, noting this was being undertaken by Defra in partnership with the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) and the Food Standards Agency (FSA).
He added the review will focus on the current approach to the labeling of non-pre-packed foods – and specifically pre-packed foods for direct sale – like bread that is baked and packaged on site.