Baguette and Fat

Apparently the rules for what ingredients you’re allowed in bread are more precisely determined in French law than European law. As a result, a bakery in Barnsley is managing to sell baguettes to that very French institutionSNCF. I’ve tried to look into this is more depth, and via Wikipedia have come across this French bread law, that does indeed seem to prevent adding fat to bread, the ingredient that the Barnsley firm wishes to add to the baguettes to increase their shelf life. As plenty of European Court of Justice case law has shown, EU states cannot prevent the import of goods due to a different definition in another Member State – mutual recognition – and there’s no EU prevention of fat in bread.

So while I wonder about the merits of putting fat in baguettes, there’s nothing the French can do about the baguettes from Barnsley other than to amend their own law, change the EC law definition of bread and its ingredients, or for a French bakery to setup a factory in another EU Member State and sell to SNCF from there. It’s a good case of why EU rules (and elimination of non-tariff barriers) matter to business.

12 Comments

  1. Hi, I just wanted to add to this conversation… I was in France in August this year and was just horrified to find hydrogenated fats in EVERYTHING there, all the bread in the supermarket except the baguette had it in. I’m not sure if the baguette is a protected loaf and therefore isn’t permissible to be mucked around with.
    It was really harsh to have to avoid the delicious french bread and pain au chocolats because you just didn’t know what was n them! And the French used to be so good at food, now it all just seems to be processed rubbish!

  2. Yes Jeremy, that’s what we’ve all agreed I think… Plus while SNCF is state owned it operates as a company, and I think they sub-contract for the restaurant car services to Sodexho or someone like that.

  3. Er, there’s nothing to stop SNCF just stopping buying its bread from Barnsley, and buying French-produced stuff, if it wants to! And isn’t SNCF still a nationalised organisation, which would seem to give the French government a fairly straightforward option for tackling this specific instance!

  4. sebastian

    So while I wonder about the merits of putting fat in baguettes, there’s nothing the French can do about the baguettes from Barnsley other than to amend their own law, change the EC law definition of bread and its ingredients, or for a French bakery to setup a factory in another EU Member State and sell to SNCF from there. It’s a good case of why EU rules (and elimination of non-tariff barriers) matter to business.

    The French cannot unilaterally change the EC law definition of bread as there is no such thing. Even if there was, a single MS couldn’t unilaterally chnage it.

    And the law you cited just covers certain types of bread, not all kind of breads.

    And there is plenty of stuff at your local boulanger full of fat, trust me

  5. sad as I am, I just google imaged “hydrogenated fat”… results most amusing. Would you prefer the molecular structure image or the charming margarine with the word FAT in pink fat floating fattily on the top from the amazingoilveoil.com website?
    But yes I got the point – French law cannot stop SNCF from importing longer-life baguettes from Barnsley even if the ingredients are different from their baguettes if EU law say it can be done. Cassis de Dijon 🙂

  6. The law – as I’ve read it – covers all bread baked in France. However I’m no expert baker!

  7. Do you not put any fat at all in when you make bread, or is this a baguette thing? I usually chuck something in at the flour stage. Bit of soya margarine generally, given my weird diet.

  8. aguirrezabal

    What about convincing us Europeans that real French bread would never contain added fat? And that’s why it tastes better and it’s good for you?

    You know, the pasta/beer/yoghourt decisions.

    I would be outraged at SNCF if I were French!

  9. Yes, I appreciate that my comments were at something of a tangent to the main thrust of your post (which I agree with by the way).
    Hydrogenated fat is a thick oil, with a dark milky appearance. A test-tube with milk in would be close enough if you reduced the brightness of the picture.
    The EU is very much out of date with regard to it’s attitude to hydrogenated fat, now recognised as the most dangerous fat to health. They also of course are under immense pressure from the US, who have to put hydrogenated fat in food for export, or it’d never survive the journey here.
    Interesting fact: European Nutella is made without, while US Nutella is made with. I saw a taste comparison somewhere saying that the US version tasted like JIF!
    So, Harriet’s blog then. It’s still got some unicode replacement glyphs showing here and there (in Firefox, at least), although most have gone now. What on earth are you doing using non-standard code anyway? I told H. that it’s because you’re a luddite who insists on sticking with the technology from the last century; the cult of the Mac.

  10. If you can find me an accurate picture of hydrogenated fat then I’ll happily put it up. As for the pros-and-cons of those fats – I don’t know. I was trying to point out the EU law side of things instead…

    As for HH’s blog – technologically speaking it’s working again.

  11. Should have said, hydrogenated fats look nothing like the lump of lard in your photo. Think you must be getting confused – that’s Roy Hattersley!

  12. The EU needs rules strong enough to drive bakeries like the one in Barnsley out of business; hydrogenated fats, the ones they want to add to their baguettes, are the most lethal addition to food permitted in law.

    When are you going to sort out young Harriet’s blog for her?

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