Bread Ingredient and Label Claim Investigation
A recent local bread ingredient and label claim investigation has again highlighted the crucial importance of accurate labelling.
Mrs Bread Care Cauliflower Spinach Protein Bread was nominated by consumers in November 2016 for investigation to verify that its ‘Low Carb’ and ‘Sugar Grain Free’ claims on the label are accurate. In response, TOPIC (Testing of Products Initiated by Consumers) launched into its sixth investigation to verify if the label claims were true. Following investigation, Mrs Bread Care acknowledged the labelling mistakes and is now taking greater care with the manufacturing and labelling of their product.
Bread Ingredient And Label Claim Investigation
TOPIC (Testing of Products Initiated by Consumers) is a consumer-led organisation funded by consumers and retailers that are committed to transparency. TOPIC uses laboratory testing, farm and factory visits and any other means necessary to verify that ingredients and label claims are accurate.
At the end of November 2016, consumers nominated a Johannesburg based product called Mrs Bread Care Cauliflower Spinach Protein Bread. The bread had ‘Low Carb’ and ‘Sugar Grain Free’ claims on the label and consumers wanted to know if the bread was truly as low carb and free from gluten containing ingredients as claimed. In response, TOPIC launched into its sixth investigation to verify if the label claims were true.
In line with our policy of engagement, on the 23rd of November we contacted the proprietors of Mrs Bread Care, Dalia and Yaacov Tzror and it was established that they were interested in testing their bread at their own cost. TOPIC offered to select a random sample and courier it to the laboratories for glycaemic carbohydrates (sugar and starch analysis) and a gluten quantification test.
The Tzror’s then informed us on the 29th of November that they were discontinuing the bread as they had received complaints that it became mouldy too quickly in summer, and they no longer wanted to cover the costs of any testing. They also informed us that their baker changed the ingredients and was now being sold under a different label. They also asked us to ‘“name the complainer” so that they could “report them to (their) lawyer”.
Mrs Bread Care was also being stocked by two of our Johannesburg Supporters – Jackson’s Real Food Market and Bryanston Organic & Natural Market (BONM). Gary Jackson informed us that he had to pull the product off his shelves twice in the last six months, due to incorrect labels. Glenda Moore from BONM told us that Mrs Bread Care has been at their market since 1991 and that all the BONM suppliers have to sign an Annual Agreement and provide various information regarding their own suppliers (this information remains confidential).
The bread continued to be sold in large quantities at numerous Johannesburg retailers and markets under a new label. The ‘Low Carb’, ‘Sugar Grain Free’, ‘Pro Health’ and nutritional information label claims had by then been removed.
On the 9th of December 2016, TOPIC received a threatening letter from the Mrs Bread Care’s attorney. We ignored their demands, which included removing references to this product from our Facebook page. The bread’s label subsequently changed again – in total, the product changed its label three times within three weeks, making a total of four different labels.
In collaboration with Gary Jackson from Jackson’s Real Food Market, we decided to have two frozen loaves that Gary had in storage sent directly to two SANAS accredited laboratories. These loaves were both labelled with the original label.
The carbohydrate test result showed 34.9% glycaemic carbohydrate which does not agree with the label claim of “Carbs 1.2g” per 100g. In fact, it contained over 30 times the carbohydrates claimed.
The gluten quantification was done in duplicate, and showed over 80mg per kilogram of gluten in the diluted sample. The ELISA method used for gluten quantification can give a result in the range 0.5g – 8g gluten per 100g of sample. The results indicate that the sample was out of range, and therefore contains more than 8g of gluten per 100g of loaf (or 80,000ppm gluten).
According to the laboratory, a wheat flour bread loaf is expected to contain approximately 8.8g protein per 100g product. Since 80% of wheat protein is gluten, bread made with pure wheat flour will contain just over 7g gluten per 100g product.
In summary, the Mrs Bread Care loaf that was tested was found to have the same amount of gluten as a loaf made with only wheat flour. There are also other possible sources of gluten, although pure flax seed flour, which is the only flour listed on the label, is gluten free.
We sent the results to the Tzror’s who expressed surprise that we tested the “old” loaves and said that TOPIC is “welcome to take the new bread and (get it) tested”. They enclosed their new label that they were now selling the bread under – the fourth one.
TOPIC informed Mrs Bread Care that we tested the original product because that was the label that was nominated by consumers. If the new product is nominated, or if anyone offered to fund the lab costs for another test, we would be happy to facilitate that.
Again we asked them to respond to the lab results and to our questions, specifically how they arrived at the ‘1.2 carbs’ per 100g which was on the original label; how did so much gluten end up in the loaf; and what steps have they taken to ensure this type of error will not happen again?
On the 10th of February, Mrs Bread Care responded to TOPIC via their lawyer who wrote that they have been made aware that the labelling of the bread they sold before the 15th of December 2016 was not correct and it was “completely unintentional” and the mistake was due to “new labelling regulations” of which they were not aware. They also once again ignored our question as to how the 1.2g carbs was obtained.
The current labelling regulation, R146, has been in effect since 2010, i.e. for over seven years. In addition, stating that there are 1.2g of carbs when the correct figure is 34.9g, is incorrect, irrespective of any regulations.
On the 22nd of February, Dalia Tzror emailed TOPIC and said the following: “I accept that the labeling of the products is incorrect and all the products labels need to be addressed. The organic market have undertaken to assist me in this regard. The carb. count of 1.2 g listed on the label of the bread was not secured from an official lab. test, but was calculated by myself from the ingredients included in the bread. I understand now that this is unacceptable and I have withdrawn Quids listing from all of our current products. I am in the process of interrogating the manufacturing chain of my products. For your information I have another facility to have more control for my products. Now we have two places instead of one place, this (is) the beginning of my effort to serve my customers better.” Dalia Tzror has started to work with BONM to re-do their labels and BONM informed TOPIC that they were willing to cover the cost of more tests.
There have been a variety of responses from retailers. Jackson’s Real Food Market removed this product from their shelves as soon as there were grounds for suspicion that the label may be inaccurate.
BONM have chosen to engage with Mrs Bread Care, to try and assist them in correcting their labels while continuing to trade at the market. This does raise the concern that customers of the market were allowed to purchase a severely mislabelled product while this engagement took place.
In a statement released to the public, BONM’s Glenda Moore said the following: “Mrs. Bread Care’s product and ingredient listings are being audited and we are assisting Mrs. Bread Care to upgrade her product labelling to conform with the requirements of Notice R146. This will be completed by the end of March. Dalia Tzror has agreed to also consult a labelling specialist to ensure compliance with this regulation.
We have visited the bakery and met with the head baker. He has confirmed that Dalia Tzror met with him to discuss the possibility of “baker’s error” in preparing the batch of bread that was tested by TOPIC. He confirmed that this was the case due to insufficient controls and training of staff in the bakery. To rectify this matter the baker has signed an affidavit confirming that he takes full responsibility for producing products that strictly adhere to the recipes provided by Mrs. Bread Care. Furthermore, all products baked for Mrs. Bread Care are now baked in a separate facility within the bakery with its own bakery staff and ingredient stores. He has also undertaken that together with Dalia Tzror, weekly training sessions will be held with the bakery staff to educate them on the necessity for the extra controls which have been put in place. Dalia Tzror will conduct random tests to satisfy herself that the baker adheres to her recipes. Bryanston Organic & Natural Market will also do random tests on Mrs. Bread Care’s products delivered to the market.”
BONM continues: “It must be stated that in the 18 years that Mrs. Bread Care has operated at the market, no customer complaints have ever been received that gluten intolerant individuals have become ill after eating products from Mrs. Bread Care that have been deemed to be gluten free. In the community spirit of trust and transparency on which the market operates, we believe that Dalia Tzror is doing everything possible to restore customer confidence in her products.”
Jackson’s Real Food Market owner, Gary Jackson, stated the following: “We were stocking the bread and Mrs Bread Care signed a letter confirming their ingredients in early 2016. I repeatedly asked them to back up their 1.2g/100g carbohydrate claim which they never did. Dalia Tzror said she was willing to label correctly and get lab results for the bread but these were also never received.
“My customers started reacting to the gluten in the bread and I had to remove it from my shelves. Mrs Bread Care blamed their baker for being incompetent, changed the recipe and we carried on selling the bread. Initially the bread was fine but again the customers started reacting as if they had eaten gluten.
“Jackson’s stands for honest labels and product and we had no choice but to delist the brand. We think the customer has been misled and errors need to be admitted and apologies made before the brand can be re-launched with proper labels backed by lab tests.”
Another loaf of the latest version of this bread was purchased at Bryanston Organic & Natural Market on the 4th of March and has been sent for testing. This test has been sponsored by Bryanston Organic & Natural Market as part of their customer assurance process on this enquiry and is being conducted by FACTS as recommended by TOPIC. The tests will establish the gluten content, and also whether or not any wheat is present. As soon as the complete results are available they will be announced on our and BONM Facebook pages, facebook.com/topicsa and facebook.com/bryorgmarket.
In line with our policy of constructive engagement, we will continue to try and liaise with the producer and retailers. Our aim is not primarily to catch anyone out, but rather to work towards our vision of a South Africa where every label is accurate and trusted by consumers.
The TOPIC team is happy that Mrs Bread Care eventually acknowledged their mistakes and is now taking greater care with the manufacturing and labelling of their product. While we cannot yet say if the current label is accurate, consumers are no longer at risk of buying the loaf which claimed on the label to contain 1.2% of carbs when it actually contained 34.9% carbs.
Working with retailers who have committed to transparency, TOPIC is supported by online organic shop Faithful to Nature, health and wellness retailer Wellness Warehouse, Cape Town fresh produce retailers Organic Zone and Garden Route Goodies, Johannesburg-based retailers, Bryanston Organic & Natural Market and Jackson’s Real Food Market, as well as urban agriculture voluntary association Abalimi-Harvest of Hope and The Farm and Garden National Trust.
TOPIC has completed several successful investigations so far, including Wakaberry, Le Chocolatier, Freedom Bakery, Frys and Futurelife. Consumers are encouraged to nominate products for testing via Facebook, Twitter or anonymously via email. For more information on becoming a TOPIC supporter, please contact the TOPIC team on 079 086 5347 or firstname.lastname@example.org or visit their website www.topicsa.org.za.
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