Sourdough Bread Labeling

Graham's picture

Australian bread can be labeled 'sourdough' even if it is not 100% sourdough. Kingsley Sullivan from New Norcia Bakeries (Western Australia) is fed up with bakeries passing off flavoured and yeasted bread as the real thing. He has taken a bold step and invited the ACCC* and FSA* to review the standard for bread labelled 'sourdough' in Australia.

Kingsley met with the ACCC recently and showed them an example of fake sourdough; it was a straight white yeasted bread that contained no sourdough culture whatsoever!

See this extract from The West Australian

Bread eaters are being duped. In some cases a flavouring is simply added to straight yeast dough in an attempt to encourage customers into paying higher prices. It is ridiculous and an insult to the art of baking.

Quote from the ACCC web site:

Whether labels are required by law, or are voluntary, they must accurately reflect the product contents because consumers depend on this information to make informed and better choices.
The Artisan Baker Association support this long overdue push and is preparing a submission to ACCC with Kinglsey and other concerned bakers and bread eaters. We would also like to thank Steve and Alison Arnott for creating awareness about this issue several years back.

How you can help:

We urgently need as many people as possible to express their concern about misleading and deceptive labeling of 'sourdough' bread in Australia. It takes only 10 minutes to make a complaint to the ACCC.

Thank you!
Graham Prichard

* ACCC - Australian Competition and Consumer Commission
* FSA - Food Standards Australia and New Zealand


EricD's picture
EricD 2008 May 9

I totally agree with you Graham and I remember we already spoke about that when I was Down-Under.
It is necessary to protect the consumers and the true bakers against fakers.
Here, in France, we have an appellation defined by the law for the sourdough bread. Maybe it could help you to do something in Australia.

In France, a sourdough bread has to be made with an alive natural leaven or a starter (alive liquid or dried leaven blended by an intermediary products manufacturer) which has the characteristics of a natural leaven (a balanced population of bacterias and yeasts, without baker's yeast added) - This last point is for bakers who do not know the job and need to buy their leaven... (that is my opinion that I share already with myself ;-) ) -
It can contain optionally an amount of baker's yeast which can be a maximum of 0.2% of the flour weight (for pressed fresh yeast).
The crumb of the bread has to be acidic and must contain a minimum of 900ppm (mg/kg) of acetic acid and has to present a pH=4.3 maximum.
Of course, the acidity has to come from the fermentation and cannot be increased by added acids like vinegar (acetic acid), lactic acid or whatever.

For me, I do not agree with the point about the acidity but that is the rule. You can make a sourdough bread which contains less acid. But this law protects the consumer and the genuine sourdough bread makers.
Be careful with the question of the acidity (the pH) because this point is very restrictive and that can help industrials to cut the grass under your feet... It is easy for an industrial to control and maintain this acidity. This is much more difficult for an artisan baker. Moreover, depending the way you use your leaven, you can get something which is just slightly acidic.
So, do not give the weapon to your enemy...
EricD's picture
EricD 2008 May 9
I think that this reflexion can be pushed a bit farer.
I think that Australian artisan bakers could work for the creation of an the appellation about the bread without additive.
In France, we have that (do not say I think we are bests) but we are "a bit" dishonest (you see, the critic is coming... ;-) ) considering that some additives are not. So, we call them technical auxiliaries (for example, enzymes like fongic amylases). Some ingredients are technical auxiliaries and really are (like malt) but everything else is just bull... !
For me, a bread without additive is a bread just with real ingredients, without fairy's powder (ascorbic acid, enzymes, fat acids esters, emulsifiers, etc, etc...).
Graham's picture
Graham 2008 May 9

[quote=EricD]I think that this reflexion can be pushed a bit farer.
I think that Australian artisan bakers could work for the creation of an the appellation about the bread without additive....

Thanks Eric...agree...and it reminds me that I have forgotton to credit everyone talking about this in the Glossary of Baking Terms; Danubian, Jacklang, Panevino, Jeremy, Teckpoh and John Downes.

Thank you all!

SEE: Draft for Sourdough Terms

Danubian's picture
Danubian 2008 May 9
can follow this up for association members once a consensus is reached on the specific criteria for several classes of bread?

kingsley.sullivan 2008 May 12

Thanks Graham for getting this important issue up on the website.  I just hope that everyone who has ever commented on this issue direct those comments to the ACCC.

Since last Friday we have been placing a bright green flouro sticker on all our package breads printed with "GENUINE SOURDOUGH".   It seems to be having a big impact on consumers!
Danubian's picture
Danubian 2008 May 14
Thanks Graham for getting this important issue up on the website.  I just hope that everyone who has ever commented on this issue direct those comments to the ACCC.

Since last Friday we have been placing a bright green flouro sticker on all our package breads printed with "GENUINE SOURDOUGH".   It seems to be having a big impact on consumers![/quote]

G'day Kingsley,

I applaud your stand and have added my name to the weight of your effort.
However, I believe "sourdough" should not need any qualifying word like "genuine" or "real" etc. to denote it's authenticity. Sourdough should be known as "sourdough". This is precisely why I advocated a standard with varying classifications for bakers and customers to understand each other and maintain language and product integrity. I believe it's incumbent on those who would want to deviate from the most fundamental classification of sourdough to use a qualifying term to describe where their product belongs in the family of breads not those who would make [genuine] sourdough, because sourdough is .... well, ....sourdough!

Thanks for keeping us informed.
kingsley.sullivan 2008 May 14
Thank you Danubain for your support.  I totally agree with you.  The action we have taken is purely to differiantate our sourdough from a blatant misrepresentation that is occurring here in WA where we have a baker labelling his bread "White Sourdough" without a bit of sourdough culture in it.

Having the definition of sourdough written in the Food Code through Food Standards Australia is the only way we can ensure the term is not misused and its use is fully enforceable.

Have you seen the definition in "The Handbook of Food and Beverage Fermentation Technology"?  They have an excellent chapter on sourdough from a very scientific perspective which is what Food Standards Australia would require in a submission.
Danubian's picture
Danubian 2008 May 15
I understand your need to differentiate, especially in a market that's open to rogues who prey on the unsuspecting public through fraudulent dealings, not to mention the damage done to those people of the same trade.

Thanks for the reference I'll be examining it closely.

Are you suggesting the ABA or equivalent should put together a detailed submission to Food Standards Australia; or have you started the the process already? 
kingsley.sullivan 2008 May 15
Hi again,

John Downes actually suggested you would be the best person to write the submission to FSA.  I am surprised he has not spoken to you about it, but I know he has been very busy.  There is a massive document titled "Application Handbook" available from which guides applicants through the process.

Their requirements are for a fully technical and scientific based submission to have the term sourdough incorp[orated into The Code which is then fully enforceable by both the ACCC and State Health authorities.

Is this something you would be interested in pursuing?
Catharina's picture
Catharina 2008 June 4
[color=blue]Hello gents,

I must say I feel a little bit intimated repling in this forum --- because you guys are obviously experts and I am just a lowly home baker --- but I have been following this thread with much interest, and feel the need to share.

I grew up in Perth and my Opa (grandfather) was the 'George the plumber' for the monks in New Norcia for many many years (I want to say at least 30 years but I could be wrong).  He would come home from work on the weekends laiden with many wonderful loaves of New Norcia bread --- the memory of this rustic and delicious wood fired bread is what keeps me plodding away in my own little kitchen striving towards excellence.  I only buy organic whole flours, never use commercial yeasts and lovingly nurture my sourdough beasties --- I bake almost every second day and proudly offer my loaves to anyone willing to taste them.  On more than one occasion people have asked me to buy or bake them, because they have "never tasted anything so good!".  My point is this...

People (especially here in America) have forgotten what real bread is --- why heck, they have almost forgottren what real food is --- the world has been duped by high frustose corn syrup or over processed fast food.  The knock on effects are killing us: obesity, legathy, cronic diseases etc.  At risk of sounding mellow dramatic, the labelling of fake sourdough as sourdough is just another nail in the coffin for humanity. 

Thus, despite the fact that I now live on the other side of the planet, I will be writing to the Aussie Food Standard's folk to add my voice to the cause.  Graham, thanks for bringing it to our attention.

kingsley.sullivan 2008 July 6

You don't need to be intimidated Catharina; remember the first sourdough was made by a home baker, and mine was too.  I will pass on details of your work your Opa did at New Norcia to the monks.  I will be seing them on Tuesday.

Thank you for your concern and support.  Unfortunately it is taking a fair bit of effort to get the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) to move on this but we are not giving up.   I will be following up with them next week to see what they intend doing.  I am also going to speak to my Federal member to see if we can get a question asked in Parliament.

Post Reply

Already a member? Login

This question is for testing whether or not you are a human visitor and to prevent automated spam submissions.