Robert Madelin and Paola Testori Coggi, Director General and Deputy Director General of the European Commission's Directorate General for Health and Consumers, together with others from the Commission's Food Safety Directorate, took part in a serious bread tasting experiment on Monday 19 January.
Two loaves of brown bread were prepared by a baker following a traditional German recipe. One loaf contained 1g of salt per 100 g bread, the amount in the draft nutrient profile for bread suggested by the Commission. The other loaf contained 1.5 g of salt per 100 g of bread, the average level currently found in bread on the German market. In both cases the salt levels were strictly controlled.
The panel, which included colleagues with lifelong experience of German culinary standards, noticed the taste difference but found that the bread with lower salt content was perfectly palatable and of parallel quality.
Why did a group of Commission officials spend time tasting bread? The reduction of currently high levels of salt intake across the EU is a WHO-endorsed heart healthy goal. Bread reformulation to reduce salt has been successful in several Member States - including Belgium, Finland, the UK and France.
There have however been suggestions that dark bread, for example of the sort often sold in Germany, could not possibly be reformulated by producers without taste suffering unacceptably… On this evidence, case not proven.