There is a long history of specific regulations covering bread and flour in the United Kingdom – dating back to at least the reign of King Edward I in the 13th century. And even today the sector is controlled by law by way of the Bread and Flour Regulations (1998).
Mandatory fortification of flour
The Bread and Flour Regulations (1998) lay down labelling and compositional standards for bread and flour; they also specify that four vitamins and minerals must be added to all white and brown flour. These are calcium, iron, thiamine (Vitamin B1) and niacin (Vitamin B3).
Wholemeal flour is exempt as the wheat bran and wheat germ from the grain included in the final flour are natural sources of vitamins and minerals.
In June 2021, the text of the Bread and Flour Regulations was updated through ‘The Food Regulations 2021 – Amendments and Transitional Provision, to reflect the exit of the United Kingdom’s from the European Union. The Food Regulations 2021 and can be accessed here, and the updated text of the Bread and Flour Regulations, here.
What are the key changes?
The Food Regulations 2021
Amend, among other, the Bread and Flour Regulations 1998 in relation to food composition
Flour and bread imported from EU, EEA and third countries are no longer exempted from complying with the Bread and Flour Regulations 1998. In particular, imported flour must comply with the composition rules laid out in the Regulations.
Unfortified flour can be produced in Great Britain for the manufacture of bread and other flour-containing products provided those products are exported / not placed on the market in Great Britain or Northern Ireland.
Similarly, unfortified flour can still be imported into Great Britain as long as it’s used for the production of products destined for export
Do the regulations affect imported bread and flour?
Yes. From 1 October 2022 non-wholemeal flour imported into Great Britain from any third country will need to comply with the fortification rules set out in the Bread and Flour Regulations 1998 if it is either:
sold directly to consumers or businesses in Great Britain
used to make products marketed or sold in Great Britain or Northern Ireland.
You must follow these rules even if you import flour from the EU into Great Britain that originally came from a non-EU country.
From 1 October 2022 unfortified non-wholemeal flour can continue to be imported into Great Britain only if it’s either:
directly exported from Great Britain to a country outside the UK [i.e. Great Britain & Northern Ireland] and not sold to consumers in Great Britain
used only in products that are exported from Great Britain to a country outside the UK [i.e. GB & NI] and not sold to consumers in Great Britain.
Manufacturers can continue to make products in Great Britain with unfortified, non-wholemeal wheat flour from 1 October 2022 if the flour was both legally imported from the EU AND imported at any time before 1 October 2022.
Fortifications rules only apply to imported flour, not bread. However, there are some rules that will kick-in from 1 October 2022 and are relevant to bread.
From 1 October 2022, bread imported from the EEA to Great Britain must not contain or have been prepared with flour bleaching agents.
Also, bread labelled or advertised as ‘wholemeal’ must contain 100% wholemeal flour and ‘wheat germ’ must have at least 10% added processed wheat germ.
Frequently Asked Questions
Can unfortified, non-wholemeal flour imported in GB before 1st October 2022 still be sold after this date?
In short, the answer is no. Essentially since the transitional provision does not expressly state that imported unfortified flour from EU/EEA before 1st October 2022 can be sold until stocks are exhausted this means that it is not permissible for the sale of this flour to occur in GB, unless it is destined for export outside the UK. The reason it can be continued to be used in the manufacturing of products but not the sale of the flour itself is because the requirements relating to fortification apply at the import or sale of flour. Hence, given that the sale or import of flour would not be occurring after following its use as an ingredient an offence would not be occurring when using the flour which was imported before the transitional period came to an end.
From the 1st of October:
Unfortified non wholemeal wheat flour can’t be sold in GB, unless one of the exemptions in the BFRs as they will stand from 1st October onwards applies.
Unfortified non wholemeal wheat flour can’t be imported into GB, unless one of the exemptions in the BFRs as they will stand from 1st October onwards applies.
Unfortified non wholemeal wheat flour can’t be moved between England, Wales and Scotland, unless one of the exemptions in the BFRs as they will stand from 1st October onwards applies.
Unfortified non wholemeal flour that was imported before 1st October can still be used in the manufacture of products unless the regulations governing the manufacture /composition of such products prohibit it (We are not aware of any that do).
The exemptions that will still stand that are referred to in this summary are for flour for use in the manufacture of communion wafers, matzos, gluten, starch, any concentrated preparation that assists the addition of calcium carbonate, iron, thiamine and niacin or flour to be later exported outside the UK or used in a product to be later exported outside the UK).
Why does the UK require all non-wholemeal flour to be fortified?
The requirements were introduced in the middle of the 20th century to ensure that these nutrients were being consumed in sufficient quantity. The position was reviewed by government advisory committees at the end of the 1990s, reaching the conclusion that statutory addition of nutrients continued to play an important part in the overall diet. As a result, to protect the public’s health, calcium, iron, niacin, and thiamin are added all non-wholemeal flour that is produced in or imported into Great Britain.
What is intended as wholemeal flour in the UK?
Wholemeal flour is a flour that contains 100% of the grain. This means that it will contain bran, wheat germ and endosperm in the same proportions found in clean grain.
Is there a definition of flour?
The Bread and Flour Regulations define flour as the product derived from, or separated during, the milling or grinding of cleaned cereal whether or not the cereal has been malted or subjected to any other process, and includes meal, but does not include other cereal products, such as separated cereal bran, separated cereal germ, semolina or grits.
Are there exemptions?
The Bread and Flour Regulations foresees the following exemptions to the fortification rules:
if the flour produced in the UK will be exported or used in the production of food that is to be exported
if the flour imported in the UK from a third country is for use in the UK to produce a food that is to be exported to a third country
if the flour is used in the manufacture of communion wafers, matzos, gluten, starch, or any concentrated preparation for use for the purpose of facilitating the addition to flour of the substances of the four fortificants (i.e., carriers).
[wholemeal flour does not need to be fortified]
It is not necessary to add calcium to self-raising flour if this has a calcium content of not less than 0.2%.
Is organic flour exempted?
No. Organic non-wholemeal flour must be fortified as per the rules in the Bread and Flour Regulations.
Is heat-treated flour exempted from the fortification rules?
No. Heat-treated (non-wholemeal) wheat flour is not exempted from the from the fortification rules. Heat-treat flour produced in the UK or (as of October 2022) imported in the UK will need to comply with the composition rules as detailed in the Bread and Flour Regulations.
Should products that are made with flour and are exported to the UK be made with fortified flour?
No, the rules on fortification only apply to flour. Bakery products, biscuits, bread and batter mixes, etc. imported to the UK do not need to be fortified. However, flour exported to the UK for the manufacture of products in the categories listed above, will need to be fortified.
Do the fortification rules only apply to flour derived from wheat?
Yes, only non-wholemeal (i.e. white and brown) flour from common wheat. Flours derived from other cereals such as rye or oats do not have to be fortified.
Will the tariff code change after the addition of nutrients?
Wheat flour added with nutrients has the same tariff code as flour with no additions -i.e., “wheat flour from common wheat” HS code 110100 15
What information should be provided to your customers and how?
It is likely that you will need to provide details of the fortified flour. Fortificants are like other ingredients and typically, the information is provided in the ingredients section of the product specifications and would include:
Percentage of the nutrients in the flour
Ideally the supplier and
(Ideally) the origin of the nutrient
I want to export baked goods to the UK, does the flour need to be fortified?
No, the rules on fortification only apply to imported flour and only if it will be used for the UK market.
A European business exports non-wholemeal flour to Great Britain for it to be used on the UK market. This flour needs to be fortified with the statutory nutrients
A European business exports non-wholemeal flour to Great Britain to be used to manufacture goods that will be exported (i.e., UK to third country). This flour does not need to be fortified.
A European business exports to Great Britain finished goods that contain flour (cakes, crackers, biscuits, bread, …). The flour used to manufacture these goods does not need to be fortified.
I want to export flour from the EU to Northern Ireland, does it need to be fortified?
In short, the answer is no. Northern Ireland has not removed the Mutual Recognition provisions within their domestic Bread and Flour Regulations therefore, under the terms of the Protocol, unfortified flour brought into Northern Ireland from a European Member State can continue to be placed on the Northern Ireland market.
The unfortified flour should be exported directly from and EU member state to Northern Ireland.
If you export flour from an EU Member State to Great Britain and some of that flour is destined to Northern Ireland, then all the flour should arrive in Great Britain fortified.
Fortification of flour with folic acid
Mandatory fortification of non-wholemeal flour with folic acid has been under consideration in the UK for many years, but due to continuing concerns over adverse effects in some fractions of the population no decision has been reached.
The Government ran a consultation on the matter, the outcome of which was published in September 2021. This was published at the same time as the Government announced their intention to mandate the addition of folic acid to non-wholemeal flour.
A proposal including technical details of the addition of folic acid to flour has been included in the Defra/DHSC consultation on the revision of the Bread and Flour Regulations launched at the beginning of September 2022. The consultation will close on 23 November and a summary of the responses will be available on the government website from mid-February 2023.
What is folic acid and why is it needed?
Folic acid, known as folate when found in its natural form in food, is a water-soluble vitamin. Humans have a daily dietary intake requirement of 200mcg. This vitamin is necessary to produce and maintain new cells and is therefore especially important during periods of rapid new growth such as during pregnancy, where a dose of 400mcg is recommended. Inadequate blood levels of folate at this time increase the risk of neural tube defects (NTDs).
What is the milling industry position?
UK Flour Millers has always held the view that it is for government to decide upon public health matters. Further to the Government’s announcement to mandate the addition of folic acid to non-wholemeal flour, the flour milling industry will work with them to find the best way of achieving this.