Under EU law, all wrapped foods are required to feature a label on the wrapper that clearly sets out the list of ingredients, the nutritional information storage instructions, the weight or volume, storage instructions, cooking instructions and more.
When it comes to your sliced pan then, what does the label tell you?
(a) The name of the food – white bread, wholemeal, wholegrain, malted brown, plain and simple!
(b) The Ingredients List tells you what was used to make the food, and these are listed in order by weight from largest to smallest. A typical list in white sliced pan is: Wheat Flour (Wheat, Calcium Carbonate, Iron, Thiamin, Niacin), Water, Yeast, Salt, Soya Flour, Vegetable Oil (Rapeseed), Emulsifiers: E472e, E481, Vegetable Fat (Palm), Preservative: E282, Flour Treatment Agents: Ascorbic Acid (Vitamin C), E920.
E numbers are codes for various food additives which play an important role in creating a nutritious product that consumers can enjoy safely . Many naturally occurring foods while others are extracts of natural products, like those from vegetable oils used in bread.
Emulsifiers help oil and water to blend together. E472e - is used in baking to strengthen the gluten network in dough and help volume of the loaf and crumb softness. It is made from Tartaric Acid (which is used commonly in home baking as Cream of Tartar and it is found naturally many fruits, mostly grapes and bananas) and from monoglycerides and diglycerides, which are derived from vegetable oil.
E481 - Sodium stearoyl-2-lactylate is another emulsifier used in bread, buns and other bakery products as a dough strengthener and crumb softener to give the high quality that we’re known for and that people in Ireland expect from their sliced pan.
E282 - Calcium propionate is a preservative that prevents mould and bread bacteria growth.
(c) Allergens or Processing Aids used in the manufacture or preparation of a food and still present in the finished product, even if in an altered form. The Allergens (if any) are highlighted in the list of ingredients, usually in bold or italics or underlined. In bread, these are Wheat (due to the Gluten), and Soya.
(d) The Quantity of certain ingredients (listed as a %) – in bread this might include any seeds or wholemeal flour or bran, wheat germ etc. if added
(e) The Net Quantity (weight) – the weight of the loaf in grammes, without the packaging.
(f) The Best Before date which is the shelf life. After this date, the bread is still safe to eat, but it’s likely to be a bit stale. On bread you’ll see the date and month, for example: 31 May means its best before the 31st of May this year. You don’t need to include the year for short shelf life foods.
(g) Any special storage conditions and/or conditions of use (temperature, time) – generally bread wrappers advise storing your loaf of bread in a cool, dry place, away from direct sunlight. This helps your bread to maintain its quality throughout the shelf life. Most bread can be frozen too which is very handy! Just make sure to thaw it before eating, or toast it, to make sure you enjoy it!
(h) The name or business name and address of the food business – this is the name and address of the bakery in case you’d like to write them a letter. Under EU law, an email address or website alone are not sufficient here.
(i) The Nutrition Declaration is required on all our members’ loaves by law to explain how much of product is made up of certain nutrients. The Nutrients must be declared per 100g.The nutrition panel of a sliced pan typically looks like this:
Per 38g Slice
|Energy (kJ / kcal)||366kJ / 86.6 kCal||139.1kJ / 32.9 kCal|
of which Saturates
of which Sugars
Sometimes food labels also include an additional column to show the Nutrition information per portion. For example, per bag, per slice, per sandwich. This is useful for the consumer and helps them monitor their calorie intake as part of a healthy diet , but it’s not a legal requirement. The baker can also choose to give the amount of Fibre or any of the vitamins or minerals, if they should wish to do so.
For more information about bread labelling, check out our members’ websites:
For more information about food labelling in general, please visit: https://www.fsai.ie/legislation/food_legislation/food_information_fic/general_fic_provisions.html
For more information about allergens: https://www.fsai.ie/legislation/food_legislation/food_information/14_allergens.html
Oonagh Monahan is a Chartered Food Scientist, a Fellow of the Institute of Food Science and Technology (UK) and the Institute of Food Science and Technology of Ireland (IFSTI).