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Flour Fortification – meeting the needs of the consumer

Flour Fortification – meeting the needs of the consumer

The UK is renowned for having long-standing historic bread and flour regulations. Since the UK left the EU after Brexit, the key piece of legislation affecting such products, ‘The Bread and Flour Regulations (1998)’ was amended through the ‘Food Regulations 2021 – Amendments and Transitional Provision’ in order to reflect changes post-Brexit.

Flour Fortification

What are the UK Bread and Flour Regulations?

The UK’s Bread and Flour Regulations (1998) lays down the compositional and labelling requirements for bread and flour, along with specifying vitamins and minerals which must be added to all white and brown flour, not including wholemeal flour. The Regulation currently states that Calcium, Iron, Thiamine (Vitamin B1), and Niacin (Vitamin B3) are required to be mandatory fortified in flour to certain levels.

In accordance with EU Regulation 1925/2006, food products which have had vitamins and minerals added to them as a form of fortification are required to be added to levels considered a significant amount, which is deemed as 15% of the RDA for that vitamin/mineral per 100g/100ml in the final product.

What issues does this cause for the UK and EU flour and bakery products industry?

The vitamin and mineral levels laid out in the UK’s Bread and Flour Regulations (1998) are lower than the required significant amount for fortified foods defined in EU law. This has led to huge uncertainty as to whether GB flour and bakery product producers would be able to sell British flour into the EU, if their products did not meet the EU significant level requirements. Equally, from an EU perspective, this has led to uncertainty as to whether EU flour and bakery products can be sold on the GB market.

As it stands, the key changes from the regulations are:

  • As of October 2022, white and brown wheat flour imported into England from the EU must me fortified, if it’s either:
    • sold directly to consumers or businesses in England or
    • is used in products marketed or sold in England.
  • This rule also applies to flour imported from the EU into England, even if it originally came from a non-EU Member State or country
  • As of 1st October 2022, only unfortified white and brown flour can be imported from the EU and non-EU countries into England if it’s lawfully produced and sold in the country you’re importing the flour from. Therefore, it must be either be:
    • directly exported from England to a country outside the UK and not sold to consumers in England or
    • used only in products that are then due to be exported outside of the UK and not sold to consumers in England.
  • The manufacturing of products in England with unfortified white and brown wheat flour can continue to be imported after 1st October 2022 if the flour was both:
    • legally imported from the EU, and
    • was imported at any time before 1st October 2022

What about other bakery products?

The UK Flour Millers Association has provided further clarity around bakery and composite products containing fortified flour. The rules on fortification apply only to flour. Bakery products, such as biscuits, bread and batter mixes, etc., imported into the UK do not need to be fortified. However, flour exported to the UK to make products, such as the ones mentioned above, will need to be fortified accordingly as per the rules. Bakery products that are made with UK-mandatory fortified flour are also still permitted to be sold on the EU market, as long as the products are not marketed or labelled as fortified, as they do not meet the significant requirements for fortified foods in the EU.

Northern Ireland Bread and Flour Regulations post-Brexit

As Northern Ireland (NI) have not removed the Mutual Recognition provisions post-Brexit, their domestic Bread and Flour Regulations mean that if a business is exporting flour from the EU to NI, then it is permitted to be unfortified. However, the flour must be directly exported from the EU to NI – it cannot pass through GB without being fortified.

Further revisions to the regulations

The UK Government has also been consulting this year on the mandatory addition of folic acid to flour, with another revision of the Bread and Flour Regulations. The consultation closed on 23rd November 2022, and the response is likely to be published on the Government website in February 2023. This will result in folic acid also being added as a mandatory nutrient to flour at a level of 250µg of folic acid per 100g for non-wholemeal wheat flour, to reduce the number of pregnancies that have neural tube defects.

Want more information? Ashbury’s team are experts in international food labelling compliance and regulatory advice. We help businesses take food and drink products to market confidently and compliantly, from production through to launch.

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