SUPERMARKETS and coffee shops claiming to sell “freshly baked” bread and cakes could be fooling customers with products that are up to a year old.
Shoppers are tempted by the smell of freshly baked bread, but an investigation revealed that many of the most popular products like muffins and rolls have been defrosted before they are placed on the shelves.
This widespread “thaw-and-serve” practice will be exposed by mew European Union rules, forcing retailers to declare which products have been held in a freezer.
A main manufacturer involved is CSM, a Dutch company that supplies supermarkets like Asda, Sainsbury’s and Tesco with doughnuts, fruit scones, cookies, muffins and flapjack bites.
A company insider said their thaw-and-serve products had a “year’s shelf life at frozen, but once defrosted [are] best eaten within a day.”
CSM’s website states: “These delicious baked goods taste as good as if they had been freshly baked and because you can thaw and serve them quickly you can react to demand throughout the day.”
It claims its scones have a “home baked appearance”.
Delifrance, another large supermarket supplier, sells French-style baked goods like ciabatta loaves, baguettes, multi-seed buns, cupcakes, croissants and farmhouse rolls.
Baguettes and rolls are often baked for around six to eight minutes after being defrosted to give them a fresher appearance and more of a crust.
The EU is proposing that retailers be forced to disclose which products have been defrosted before sale.
In an amendment to the proposed Food Information Regulation, it says: “In the case of foods that have been frozen before sale and which are sold defrosted, the name of the food shall be accompanied by the designation ‘defrosted’.”
Retailers were holding off on identifying which goods they sell are defrosted, with none the biggest UK supermarket chains providing any information about thaw-and-serve bakery products.
The Federation of Bakers and the British Retail Consortium (BRC), which represents supermarkets, are now lobbying against the proposed rules.
A spokesperson for the BRC said: “It’s not a question of retailers wanting to keep customers in the dark, but if you start listing what products have been previously frozen, is that going to confuse customers?”
Andrew Whitley, a founder of the Real Bread Campaign, said: “The impression of an in store bakery is that it’s all freshly baked.
“It’s a con trick because the reality is that a lot of it has been frozen.”
Morrisons supermarket chain said the “majority” of its bread is baked from scratch but would not comment on the possibility of defrosted products.
Asda said its labelling complied with the law and Sainsbury’s said the BRC were best-placed to comment on the issue.
A spokeswoman for CSM said: “The products that we supply [to supermarkets] are customer own-label products, and as a matter or policy we do not discuss the specific details with third parties.”