Bakers Journal

News
On the Plate for 2008


February 14, 2008
By Jane Ayer

hetherington
We spoke with Paul Hetherington, president of The Baking Association of
Canada, about the topics high on his 2008 to-do list, and the issues that just won’t go away. Remember acrylamide? It’s back. Here’s what Paul had to say.

We spoke with Paul Hetherington, president of The Baking Association of Canada, about the topics high on his 2008 to-do list, and the issues that just won’t go away. Remember acrylamide? It’s back. Here’s what Paul had to say.

 
hetheringtonMy observations with regards to what’s happening is there are a number of things stemming out of this wellness focus, which is an overarching category. Some of them are opportunities for the industry, some of them are going to be very, very concerning — and already are, quite frankly.

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Opportunities consist with the nutrition focus of the breads and rolls business. We’re looking forward, in the next year, to a health claim for folic acid, a health claim for whole grains and we’re also looking at other opportunities, trying to get positive messaging out there with regards to products. They’re really tool for industry to utilize.

 

We’re looking at utilization of more of a biological role claim. To make a health claim you talk about its role in disease prevention: calcium helps prevent osteoporosis, so there’s a direct link. Osteoporosis is a disease, the nutrient in this product helps to prevent that, there’s a direct correlation. You get other claims that talk about a biological role: folic acid helps promote a healthy pregnancy. This claim talks about the role it has: folic acid helps promote healthy spinal cord development in fetuses, there’s a distinct difference.

 

So that’s the wellness side. That’s the positive. We have a wonderful product in breads and rolls, they’re very nutritious, so what opportunities exist to explain to consumers what’s in the product and why it’s good? Historically we probably haven’t done a very good job of doing that, we’ve (assumed) everybody knows bread is good.


 

On the negative side, the ledger is also pretty full. We’re still struggling with trans fats, which we know doesn’t impact the bread side of the business, but it does impact the sweet goods side of thing. We’ve got municipalities and provinces now launching their own independent actions outside of what’s transpiring federally and it’s complicating matters. Industry is still struggling with finding long-term, viable replacements which are low in trans and low in saturated fats.

 

We have sodium on the horizon, which impacts all bakery products, but definitely is more challenging with regards to the bread side of the business because of the functionality role it plays. Health Canada has called for the establishment of a working group, we’ve been invited, and my name has gone forward to be the industry representative on that working group.

 

We haven’t talked about acrylamide yet, which is going to be on the horizon for next year. It’s back and back with a vengeance.  There’s a study that recently came out of the European Union and a pethora of other studies underway looking at the health risks and epidemiology of acrylamide. Bread acrylamide levels are not very high, per serving, but it’s a case of the accumulation of it on a daily basis. So how will that be managed by the media and government,  and will it be done responsibly? That’s going to be an issue for industry.

 

We’ve got a new focus on allergen labelling coming up. Health Canada has still not introduced mandatory allergen labelling regulations, but it’s just a matter of when. They do have a renewed focus looking at the use of precautionary statements, they’re going to be doing a consultation on that and we look forward to participating in that. We think precautionary labelling is very necessary for our industry. Based on the number of allergens we use in our businesses, we use pretty much every one of them. But (precautionary statements) have to be responsible, that’s the key. They can’t be used to replace good manufacturing practices.


 

Finally, I think the overriding challenge the industry is facing right now, putting aside those legislative and regulator issues that exist and others, is the unprecedented increase in commodity prices, it is hugely problematic.