The recent introduction of the Food Standards SelfRaising Flour Order S.R. & O. 1946 No. 157 heralds the passing of a period in which a most unfortunate state of affairs held sway. Happier conditions should now prevail, but it may not be out of place to review briefly the causes of the dissatisfaction which were justly felt not only by the manufacturer, but also by the authorities whose duty it is to protect the housewife. Shortly after the creation of a standard for selfraising flour S.R. & O. 1944 No. 44 some two years ago, it became only too obvious that the meagre instructions for the determination of available carbon dioxide were far from sufficient, so that the same sample examined in different laboratories yielded results which differed appreciably. Trade chemists specially familiar with the examination of flour and the peculiar difficulties arising therefrom fared no better. Subsequent discussions by a Committee consisting not only of Ministry officials and trade chemists, but also of Public Analysts and consultants, produced a recommendation that a more detailed description of the analytical procedure should be given. This recommendation, which is adopted in the new Order, paved the way for the elimination of one source of dissatisfaction. Unfortunately, the vexed question of the limits to be specified remained. As is well known, selfraising flour, in common with baking powder and allied products, suffers during storage loss in available carbon dioxide and hence in raising power. This is particularly so if the storage conditions are unsatisfactory or if the basis flour used in manufacture contains an abnormally high percentage of moisture. Long periods of high average relative humidity prevail in this country, and under these conditions flour tends to take up additional moisture. The paper bags or packages in which selfraising flour is usually retailed offer little protection against the ingress of moisture, so that deterioration or run down under the usual retail conditions is not only likely to occur but has been clearly demonstrated. A recommendation by the Committee of assistance in this direction was that the previouslyspecified upper limit for total carbon dioxide of 065 per cent. should be abandoned. This limit, fixed to prevent the use of unnecessarily large amounts of phosphate, caused the unfortunate manufacturer to be faced with a dilemma of the most awkward variety. Though he had to play for safety by incorporating an excess of aerating ingredients, this excess had to be restricted in order to yield a product which, at manufacture, possessed a total carbon dioxide content not exceeding 0 65 per cent. Where the basis flour contained added Creta Praeparata this of course had to be taken into account in arriving at the figure for total carbon dioxide. Following this recommendation, the recentlyintroduced Order prescribes no maximum for the amount of total carbon dioxide. Should they so desire, manufacturers may now increase the proportion of active materials in an attempt to compensate for the natural deterioration of selfraising flour. Whether this is done or no, the phenomenon of deterioration remains consequently, the fixing of the minimum statutory standard for available carbon dioxide is one of extreme importance. The 1942 Order provided for a minimum of 045 per cent., a figure which was felt by the manufacturers of selfraising flour to be too high. Their suggestion of an alternative figure of 035 per cent. was, however, declined by the Ministry of Food. Owing to the extreme importance of the matter, the question was again raised by the manufacturers, who felt that a figure higher than that suggested by them would be certain to result in unjust and unnecessary prosecution. They were satisfied that the figure suggested was fair and reasonable to both manufacturer and housewife. The contention that selfraising flour containing approximately 035 per cent. of available carbon dioxide could give satisfactory results was supported by the submission of samples of cake which had been made with flours of differing available carbon dioxide content. In fact, the samples appeared to indicate that the results obtainable with a selfraising flour of 035 per cent. strength were little, if at all, different from those obtainable with a flour complying with the then operative standard of 045 per cent. However, the InterDepartmental Committee on Food Standards held that though the cakes in question were admittedly satisfactory, the recipes employed called for higher proportions of eggs and fat than would be generally allowable under present rationing. Under such circumstances, the virtually identical results obtained with flours containing respectively 035 and 045 per cent. of available carbon dioxide were only to be expected. Further, the sample cakes had been made under conditions in which the latitude normally considered desirable for domestic cooking was absent. Accordingly, the Committee felt that proof was lacking that a selfraising flour containing 035 per cent. of available carbon dioxide would be satisfactory for general use. Thus, research had shown that in the preparation of steamed puddings, a selfraising flour containing 040 per cent. or more of available carbon dioxide was necessary to ensure ample aeration. The recommended analytical procedure should eliminate the institution of unjust proceedings, while, although he may become a party, no legal liability attaches to the manufacturer if noncompliance with the standard at the time of retail sale is due solely to the retailer having stored the flour for an unduly long lime or under unusually bad conditions. Hence the risk of unfair prosecution could be stressed unduly. Nevertheless, although no legal liability might attach to the manufacturer, his becoming involved in proceedings could be most embarrassing. Accordingly, the Committee recommended that the minimum standard for available carbon dioxide should be reduced to 040 per cent., since available evidence indicates that such an amount gives adequate aeration. This is adopted in the new Order. The new standard has been most thoroughly thrashed out may it result in a state of affairs which is fair to all.
British Food Journal – Emerald Publishing
Published: Apr 1, 1946
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