Ever since King John enacted the Assize of Bread in 1266, the weight of loaves in England has been regulated. But now, warns Nigel Griffiths, Labour consumer spokesman, a draft European Union directive threatens the standard loaf. "In the UK we buy bread by the loaf. Consumers are protected because whatever the shape or size of the loaf, they get the same weight of bread by law - 800g in the case of a standard family loaf; which represents 85 per cent of all bread sales," he said.
The standard loaf was halved from the 4lb "quartern" to 2lb as a wartime measure in 1939, and metricated to 800g in the 1988 Weights and Measures Order. All British bread described as a loaf must be made in either full 800g or half 400g sizes, unless it is below 300g.
But the EC regards this law as a barrier to trade, and wants it scrapped. A directive to be considered by the European Parliament would allow loaves of any weight to be sold, and labelled in "pence per gram".
As Labour pledges its opposition, however, the affair has seen a bizarre reversal of usual political alignments, with the Government's "deregulation taskforce" at the Department of Trade and Industry keen to get rid of the old laws - "just because they are rules", said Tony Casdagli, director of the Federation of Bakers.Reuse content