Bakers bitter about lack of action on sourdough imitations

By Oliver Morrison

- Last updated on GMT


Related tags Bread sourdough

Artisan bakers in the UK are demanding new government legislation to curb the rise of ‘sourfaux’ bread.

Despite a promise made by the UK government in 2018​, no progress has been made towards better protecting people buying products labelled ‘sourdough’ from being misled, according to the Real Bread Campaign.

Its new campaign called Sourdough September​ is continuing to lobby for a change in legislation. More than 50 bakeries have also signed up to The Sourdough Loaf Mark scheme​, which was launched in August 2020, which urges all bakeries and loaf and sandwich sellers to display full ingredients lists for all loaves.

Each bakery has signed an annual agreement to use The Real Bread Loaf Mark only to promote bread made without so-called processing aids or other additives. The agreement limits the use of The Sourdough Loaf Mark to Real Bread leavened only with a live sourdough starter culture, though not all Loaf Mark users bake sourdough bread.

Real Bread Campaign coordinator Chris Young said: “The law needs to change to protect everyone seeking genuine sourdough or other Real Bread for whatever reasons they want or need to do so.” 

The group has long criticised mainstream brands for attempting to make fake sourdough recipes which it calls ‘sourfaux’. Its campaign also advises consumers who want to avoid sourfaux​ always to read ingredients lists. 

It complains few countries have a legal definition of sourdough, allowing “industrial loaf fabricators, supermarkets and others are free to use the word to name and advertise products made using baker’s yeast, additives and even without a live sourdough starter culture.”

It says ‘genuine’ sourdough bread is made using a live sourdough starter culture, while relatively low levels of naturally-occurring yeast means that dough takes longer to rise than if made using usual amounts of baker’s yeast.

“In the hands of skilled Real Bread bakers, this longer, slower fermentation, allows lactic acid bacteria in the starter to cause changes in the dough that result in bread with a glossy crust and crumb, and a greater complexity of flavour and aroma,”​ it said.

Laws in the UK, across the EU and elsewhere allow manufacturers and retailers to choose not to display full list of ingredients of unwrapped loaves, sandwiches etc. for shoppers to see at the point of sale.

While a law requiring full ingredient labelling of food prepacked for direct sale does come into effect in the UK in October 2021, the group says labelling laws allow manufacturers to choose to omit additives deemed to be ‘processing aids​’ from any list of ingredients.  

The Real Bread Campaign claims a growing number of studies have concluded that there might be various nutritional and other benefits​ arising from sourdough fermentation. It adds that some people report that they can enjoy eating genuine sourdough bread, despite having digestive or other problems after eating food containing wheat or gluten proteins made in other ways.

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