In June this year the Government held an informal consultation in order to seek views on possible additions to the exemptions currently allowed under the Bread and Flour Regulations 1998 from the requirement to fortify flour with calcium, iron, niacin, and thiamine. The exemptions that were envisaged would allow more efficient and streamlined manufacturing operations for foods produced for export as well as for the home market, without compromising the public health benefits which accrue from fortification. A range of interested parties were consulted including millers, flour users, retailers, fortificant manufacturers and health professionals.
The options proposed in the consultation would allow millers to produce unfortified flour in England when used as a secondary ingredient which undergoes further processing, or is used in relatively small quantities in products. This approach was welcomed by most consultees and the Government is now considering how to take this forward.
The Department of Health and Public Health England has considered the proposals and concluded that it is unlikely that an exemption from fortification for flour used in such products will have a nutritionally significant impact on the intakes of calcium, iron, thiamine or niacin.
The changes proposed would apply to England only since food legislation is a devolved matter. The devolved administrations are aware of these proposals but have not yet made any decisions on whether to introduce similar changes.
Respondents to the consultation also asked for some additional flexibility around the point at which the fortificants are added to flour. At the moment flour must be fortified at the mill and the four fortificants are added as a premix at the end of the milling process. Many businesses which manufacture foods both for the home market and for export requested the flexibility to be able to add the fortificants at the bakery stage. They highlighted that the requirement for separate storage and handling for, both fortified and unfortified flour (which is used for exported products) was creating significant manufacturing complexities. That resulted in a more restricted product range and is having an adverse effect on their export potential and their ability to diversify into new global markets. The Government is currently considering this.