The humble everyday bread has changed. What entire generations had known only in its pristine white form is now available in a dizzying array of varieties. At any grocer’s or supermarket now you’ll notice whole wheat, multigrain, garlic, honey, brown and many more varieties of the breakfast staple. But with expanding choice comes expected confusion, which is why authorities in India are mulling minimum standards for all the various breads.
What Is The Govt’s Plan?
The central watchdog, Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI), has shared draft regulations with the Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare for regulating the quality of specialty breads, as breads that have been enhanced for nutrition or taste are called.
The draft, which has been seen by News18.com, lays down minimum standards for the likes of whole wheat, brown, white, multigrain and 14 specialty breads, including garlic, egg, oatmeal, milk and cheese breads. The idea behind prescribing standards for these breads is to ensure that buyers know what to expect when they opt for a specialty bread.
The proposed guidelines require that there should be a minimum quantifiable level to which a “specialty ingredient" needs to be present in the said specialty bread. “The specialty ingredient must be present in case a prefix is added to the term ‘bread’ on the label," the draft says.
What Makes Such Standards Necessary?
In its 2017 guidance document for bakery and bakery products, FSSAI mentioned the “rising need for food safety in the sector" and “trends in baking… towards lighter, healthier products, and those containing allergen-free, organic, and whole-grain ingredients". However, so far, no standards have been devised for the production of specialty breads.
Given changing lifestyles and improving consumption standards, “interest in inclusions and fortification
continues to increase among consumers of baked goods", FSSAI had noted.
“The addition of inclusions to baked products requires modifications to the original product formula, thus creating a new product from an existing one. Such modifications can be challenging to bakers as changes in
formulation may result in the need for changes to equipment, processes and ingredient costs," it said.
Even as “whole and alternative grains and grain products continues to drive new product development", FSSAI said that the “lack of technology and upgradation in manufacturing and packaging has been a factor affecting industry growth". The new standards for specialty breads would thus aim to provide the yardstick by which these products can be evaluated.
“Majority of these products sold by confectionery giants follow uniformity. However, the local products do not follow any standards. The audits and random checks will not be efficient without regulating the sector," an official told News18.com.
Are There Any Regulations for Bread At Present?
Earlier this year, FSSAI came up with the Food Safety and Standards (Food Products Standards and Food Additives) First Amendment Regulations, 2021, which updated the definitions of bakery products, including biscuits and breads.
The document says, “Bread and bread type products such as rusks means the baked product prepared from a mixture of atta (whole wheat flour) and/or maida (refined wheat flour), water, salt, yeast or other fermentive medium or leavening medium. It includes the different varieties of breads, rusks etc." While it also mentions a list of ingredients like honey, egg, seasoning that can be added in breads, it does not lay down the proportion at which they are to be included for the product to adopt a “specialty" labelling.
FSSAI’s 2017 guidelines for bakery products had noted that “baked goods using flours made from buckwheat, quinoa, millet, amaranth, flax, corn, rice, sorghum, wild rice, and other non-wheat grains remain a popular trend in baking" due to “the demand for products that are free from gluten and other allergens".
What these flours do is to “offer tastes and textures that are uniquely different from wheat flours" and the trend is now moving towards “more types of artisan and handcrafted breads", FSSAI had noted. Thus, regulations for such breads would appear to be a much-needed requirement.
How Big Is The Bakery Industry In India?
FSSAI had said im 2017 that the bakery sector represents the largest segment of the food processing sector in India, with the country home to “more than 2,000 organised or semi-organised bakeries producing around 1.3 millions tonnes of the bakery products and 1 million unorganised small-scale bakeries producing 1.7 millions tonnes". Bread and biscuits were said to be “the most popular bakery items", accounting for 80 per cent of the total market.
What Are The Proposed Minimum Mix Standards?
According to the draft FSSAI standards, whole wheat breads would be those where the specialty ingredient is whole wheat flour. It should make up at least 75 per cent of the flour used in the product while multigrain breads need to have at least 20 per cent of grains other than wheat.
Among others, the standard oatmeal bread must contain at least 15 per cent of the specialty ingredient while a minimum of 2 per cent of garlic will be have to be present in garlic bread. Brown bread must have at least 50 per cent of the whole grain flour.
Similarly, honey bread should contain at least 5 per cent honey and cheese breads should be 10 per cent cheese. Mandatory thersholds have been mentioned for the varieties like fruit, rye, raisin and protein-enriched breads.
What Is It Like In Other Countries?
In a 2010 paper on the ‘Standardisation Of The Bakery Goods’, Elzbieta Gorynska-Goldmann of the Poznan University of Life Sciences in Poland says that setting production values for bread goes back to the beginnings of recorded history and can be “found in the Code of Hammurabi, the Bible or the Koran".
“In the Bible one may find notes about distinguishing unleavened bread from the ordinary, done on leavening," she says, but notes that in the ‘Codex Alimentarius’ — which is a collection of internationally recognised standards, guidelines, etc. published by UN agency Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) — “guidelines regarding classification of the bread have not been found". That, she says, would be due to “not only technological differences, but also cultural differences".
However, to take one example on modern standards for specialty breads, Singapore says that wholegrain breads “shall be bread made from wholemeal flour or a mixture of wholemeal flour and other flours… [and] contain not less
than 0.6 per cent fibre calculated on the dry matter of bread". Further, such bread “shall not contain any colouring molasses or caramel".
Likewise, fruit bread “shall contain raisins, currants, sultanas or dried fruit, in proportion of not less than 10 kg… to every 100 kg of flour or of wholemeal flour…" Rye bread may not have “more than 70 per cent of flour" while milk bread should contain “not less than 4 per cent of non-fat milk solids on a moisture-free basis".