FAO Regional Office for Europe and Central Asia

At global bread-baking forum, FAO highlights bread as an important source of dietary energy

A team of speakers from FAO and the World Health Organization have contributed knowledge, expertise and vision to the four-day international forum “Bread Means Peace,” which has brought together professional bakers and food experts from more than 60 countries of Europe, America, Asia and Africa.

The forum was held near the ancient Russian city of Kaluga, 162 km south of Moscow. Forum organizers included the Russian Guild of Bakers and Confectioners, the International Union of Bakers and Confectioners, the Administration of the Kaluga Region, and the Central Council of the Russian Federation.

Bread and bakery products, which are widely consumed as part of traditional diets, are “an important source of dietary energy,” said Aniko Nemeth, an FAO food safety and nutrition junior technical officer, in her presentation on the role of flour fortification in achieving food and nutrition security through food-based interventions.

In addition, bread and bakery products might play a crucial role in improving nutrition or obtaining food security. This is of paramount importance, Nemeth said.

“Millions still suffer from micronutrient deficiencies – in particular anaemia, which occurs at significant levels in many countries, including in high-income countries,” she said. “Anaemia in women of child-bearing age is on the rise, constituting an important public health problem.”

In this context, the nutritional impact of bread consumption should not be underestimated. Within food-based approaches, FAO views the fortification of flour with vitamins and minerals as a relevant element of national nutrition improvement policies, plans and programmes.

“In FAO’s view, food fortification is not an alternative to the overall goal of improving nutrition through the consumption of a nutritionally adequate diet made up from a variety of available foods,” she said. “Actions that promote an increase in the supply, access and consumption of an adequate quantity, quality and variety of foods for all population groups is central to FAO’s work.”

Stephen Whiting and Julianne Williams, from WHO’s European Office for the Prevention and Control of Noncommunicable Diseases, gave a presentation titled “The role of bread and bakery products in healthy nutrition: challenges and opportunities.” They highlighted, among other things, the dangers associated with excessive intakes of salt from bread and bakery products. This has negative health effects, they said, with the most alarming being elevated blood pressure.

Traditional societies had low salt consumption (less than 1 g per day). Salt entered the food chain as preservative for food, and later, people migrating to urbanized areas increased their salt intake. With the population averaging 7.5 g to 12.5 g per day – with higher extremes – salt intake is now excessive.

“In Westernized societies,” Whiting and Williams noted, “salt is not needed to preserve food any longer, due to refrigeration.” Moreover, they said, 75 percent or more of salt in food is derived from salt added in the manufacturing process, meaning that “individuals only control a small part of the salt they eat.”

The general recommendation from FAO and the WHO is that consumption should be limited to less than 5 g/day of salt (2 g/day of sodium) for adults.

“As a consequence of grain production growth, the traditional variety is washed out, the quality of bread of mass varieties deteriorates, and dozens of different substances of biological and chemical origin are used in the baking industry in the form of improvers,” said Aleksey Zavarzin, deputy director for science and organizational work at the N.I. Vavilov All-Russian Institute of Plant Genetic Resources.

“The genetic potential of wheat allows us to create varieties for the production of grain with technological characteristics suitable for the production of high-quality bread,” said Zavarzin, whose presentation focused on the role of the genetic resources of grain cereals in ensuring food security.

He continued: “In the history of Russian breeding, there are multiple examples of creating varieties for grain first and second class. When combined with traditional breeding methods, modern molecular genetics offers approaches that make it possible to accelerate the creation of new varieties adapted to the conditions and requirements of the baking industry by using the natural genetic potential of wheat.”

Nowadays, it is possible not only to achieve accelerated production of wheat varieties with specified technological properties of grain and flour, but also to solve special problems – for example, those related to the production of hypoallergenic wheat.
“Obtaining ‘gluten-free’ varieties will allow for moving away from the practice of complete exclusion of products made from wheat flour from the diet of people with celiac disease,” Zavarzin said, “and thus preserve for them the possibility of consuming a variety of nutrients and trace elements contained in wheat grain.”

Experts and participants welcomed the comprehensive discourse. The forum served as a discussion platform for representatives of food industry, business community, associations of bakers and confectioners from Russia and other countries, government specialized agencies, academia, traders and public catering outlets, as well as future bakers and confectioners about to graduate from universities and industry-related colleges.

20 September, 2019, Kaluga, Russian Federation