Complaints have been lodged against five major UK supermarket groups over claims they offer freshly baked bread in their stores.

The Real Bread Campaign has called the claims made by Tesco, Sainsbury’s, Morrisons, Lidl and The Co-op misleading and has sent complaints to the relevant trading standards authorities.

Real Bread Campaign, run by the group Sustain, which campaigns for a better system of food, farming and fishing, is unhappy the supermarkets appear to be suggesting bread in their in-store bakeries is baked from scratch from ingredients when instead they are re-baking bread made elsewhere.

In a statement sent to Just Food, the Real Bread campaign said: “People have a right to know whether a loaf has been made fresh from scratch on-site by a skilled baker, or manufactured elsewhere and merely loaded into a loaf tanning salon.

“The truth won’t affect people who shop based on price and availability alone, but it does give everyone else the chance to make better-informed choices about what they buy. Re-baking roughly doubles the energy used, results in products that stale quickly, and so are more likely to lead to food and financial waste and doesn’t support high-quality baking jobs in the store’s local community.”

In the case of Sainsbury’s, the campaign group said products in its bakery section use claims including “freshly made every day” and “freshly baked bread”.

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Real Bread Campaign said the “claims are increasingly unrepresentative of the company’s in-store bakeries in general” given Sainsbury’s has announced more of its in-store bakeries would move to a “bake-off model”.

On Monday (10 June), the campaign group submitted a complaint against Sainsbury’s to Oxfordshire County Council trading standards.

In the case of Tesco, the campaign group said it markets bakery section products using claims including “expertly baked in store since 1968”, “baking fresh from our ovens every day” and “freshly baked throughout the day” on packaging, store displays and its website.

Real Bread Campaign said it has found that Tesco uses such marketing at stores where no bread is freshly baked from scratch on site.

Chris Young, a co-ordinator at the campaign group, said: “Over a number of years, Tesco has been shutting down in-store bakeries and making skilled baker roles redundant, replacing fresh bread making with staff members loading pre-made products into loaf tanning salons. We’re saddened by the company’s audacity in telling shoppers that things are being expertly, freshly baked and amazed that they’ve been allowed to continue making such claims.”

On 28 May, Real Bread Campaign sent its complaint to Hertfordshire County Council, the local authority with the primary authority relationship with Tesco for trading standards.

Similar grievances have been expressed by the campaign group about claims made by Co-op, Morrisons and Lidl and complaints have been lodged with their relevant trading standards authorities.

Just Food has asked all the supermarket groups concerned for their response to the campaign group’s complaints.

A Sainsbury’s spokesperson said: “We reviewed our bakery services and recipes earlier this year to make sure we can make good food affordable for everyone.

“More of our stores now bake pre-prepared dough in-store, as it allows us to offer customers the best quality in-store bakery products at great value. Our bakery items are also clearly labelled in line with legislation and trading standards.”

A Tesco spokesperson said: “We’re proud of our colleagues who freshly bake great quality, affordable bread in hundreds of our stores – and have done so since we opened our first in-store bakery in 1968.

“In some stores where we don’t have the space to bake everything from scratch, we work closely with our bakery suppliers who prepare dough for us that trained colleagues bake every day in store.

“The signage we use in each individual store reflects the different ways we prepare bread and our approach has been agreed with our trading standards primary authority.”

A Co-op spokesperson said: “As a convenience retailer, we pride ourselves on offering an affordable and great quality in-store bakery range for our member owners and customers – including our much-loved Irresistible sourdough baguette which is freshly prepared and baked by trained colleagues across our stores every day.”