Amending the Bread and Flour Regulations 1998 and the Bread and Flour Regulations (Northern Ireland) 1998

Closes 23 Nov 2022

Opened 1 Sep 2022

Overview

The UK Government and devolved administrations are seeking views on proposals to update and amend The Bread and Flour Regulations 1998 and The Bread and Flour Regulations (Northern Ireland) 1998 which cover specific rules on the labelling and composition of bread and flour. The regulations primarily mandate the compulsory fortification of milled white and brown non-wholemeal wheat flour that are manufactured and sold in the UK for public health reasons with added calcium, iron, thiamin and niacin to protect against nutrient deficiencies within the UK population.

Calls for a review into the regulations arose due to the legislative changes which were made following the UK’s departure from the EU.[1] Requests for a review were largely due to a disparity between the Bread and Flour Regulations and other pieces of food legislation on the levels and specifications of vitamins and minerals added to foods. While we have set out to ensure the Bread and Flour Regulations are consistent with other food standards legislation, we have also committed to reviewing a range of other issues regarding some of the provisions of the regulations which have been raised by stakeholders. The proposals included in this consultation look at ways to ensure that the regulations lead to improved public health, support UK industry, assist enforcement authorities and protect consumers.

Following a UK-wide public consultation, the UK Government and devolved administrations announced in September 2021 their intention to proceed with arrangements to require the mandatory fortification of non-wholemeal wheat flour with folic acid to help prevent neural tube defects in foetuses. To minimise the impact of this requirement on industry, where possible, multiple changes should be incorporated under one set of amendments. Thus, the addition of folic acid to the list of nutrients which must be added to non-wholemeal wheat flour is being co-ordinated as part of this wider review of the regulations.

Over 99% of British households buy bread and one quarter of all groceries in the four biggest UK supermarkets contain flour. Hence, the proposals to amend the legislation will impact a wide range of stakeholders including flour millers, food manufacturers, wholesalers, retailers, importers, food enforcement authorities, and the majority of consumers within the UK. We would like to hear from anyone with an interest.

The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) alongside the Food Standards Agency in Northern Ireland, Food Standards Agency in Wales (FSA) and Food Standards Scotland (FSS) have agreed to work on this review together under the Food Compositional Standards and Labelling provisional common framework in efforts to align UK policy as far as possible. This consultation is also being held in conjunction with the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC), Welsh Government, Scottish Government and Department of Health Northern Ireland who have responsibility for matters of public health. The addition of folic acid to flour will be considered by officials from across the UK under the Nutrition Labelling and Composition Standards (NLCS) framework as the addition of vitamins and minerals to food fall in scope of this framework.

 

[1] The Food (Amendment and Transitional Provisions) (England) Regulations 2021; The Food (Withdrawal of Recognition) (Miscellaneous Amendments) (Scotland) Regulations 2021; The Food (Withdrawal of Recognition) (Miscellaneous Amendments and Transitional Provisions) (Wales) (EU Exit) Regulations 2022;  ended the mutual recognition arrangements for flour from EU/EEA member states, meaning wheat flour imported from the EU and EEA to GB will need to comply with Bread and Flour Regulations fortification requirements from October 2022. Under the terms of the Protocol on Ireland/Northern Ireland, mutual recognition continues to apply to flour imported from EU member states into Northern Ireland meaning flour imported from EU member states to Northern Ireland is exempt from the requirements of the Bread and Flour Regulations. At the same time changes were made to allow the sale of unfortified flour for export or use in a product destined for export.

 

Why your views matter

Consultation on changes to food law in the UK is required by both The Food Saftey Act 1990 retained EU food law Regulation (EC) 178/2002 and EU food law Regulation (EC) 178/2002 as applied in Northern Ireland. We are seeking views on policy options presented in this consultation which have been developed following discussions with a range of relevant stakeholders.

The purpose of the consultation is to ensure that the Bread and Flour Regulations are fit for purpose and support UK industry, while protecting consumers.

The objectives of the consultation are to:

  1. Understand the preferences and views from interested parties on the policy proposals presented.
  2. Assess whether the new proposals are suitable and reflective of the needs of UK industry, consumers and enforcement authorities.
  3. Explore any unintended consequences of the new proposals that have not been considered.

The consultation has been split into five areas which the proposals aim to address:

  • Interaction with wider food legislation – Policy proposals in this section primarily look at ways to update the regulations to ensure consistency with other food standards legislation enabling understanding and compliance.
  • Folic acid – As folic acid fortification has already been subject to a public consultation; this part of the consultation focuses on the implementation of the UK-wide commitment to introduce the mandatory addition of folic acid to non-wholemeal wheat flour. This outlines the technical aspects related to the policy including the proposed level at which folic acid should be added to flour in line with public health aims to reduce incidence of neural tube defect affected pregnancies and consideration of a suitable transition period necessary for businesses to adjust.
  • Scope of the Regulations – This part of the consultation clarifies potential differing interpretations over the scope of fortification requirements for wheat flour. The policy proposals set out to ensure a consistent understanding across the bread and flour supply chain and local enforcement.
  • Exemptions from fortification requirements This section covers proposals to reduce regulatory burden for businesses where public health outcomes of the policy are not compromised. Proposals consider exempting small-scale mills from requirements to fortify, taking into account practical and technological limitations of this section of the industry. The proposals also look at exempting flour which is to be present as an ingredient in a final food product at less than 10% recognising that these products make a negligible contribution to the dietary intake of these added nutrients.
  • Enforcement – The final section of the consultation covers proposals to move to a more proportionate enforcement regime, adding improvement notices as a first step in addressing non-compliance.

The consultation offers stakeholders a chance to share their preferences and views on the policy options presented. This consultation is expected to be of interest to millers, food manufacturers, enforcement authorities, consumers, consumer groups as well as health professionals and public bodies. We are also seeking additional information to further our assessment of the impacts of policy options, ensuring proposals brought forward are suitable for meeting the policy objectives and check against potential unintended consequences. Responses to the consultation will be used to help refine proposals and inform policy decisions on how the UK government and devolved administrations proceed with any subsequent legislative changes.

Give us your views

Audiences

  • Charities/Voluntary Organisations
  • Food Business Operators
  • Food Industry
  • Devolved Administrations
  • Policy Teams
  • Local Authorities
  • Retail Industry
  • Manufacturing Industry
  • Member of the General Public
  • Trading Standards Officers
  • Environmental Health Officers

Interests

  • Food standards
  • Food imports
  • Food and drink exports