14TH JULY 2019 BY JON COOK
Future of the Prior’s Flour at risk – act now
On the 13th June 2019, the Government launched a 12 week consultation seeking views on the proposal to introduce mandatory fortification of flour with folic acid. This, the consultation states, is to help reduce neural tube defects (NTDs) in foetuses by raising the folate levels of women who could become pregnant. The consultation seeks views on fortifying all flours with Folic Acid, not just white flour.
We at Fosters Mill welcome government initiatives to reduce neural tube defects. We have no expertise to comment on the medical evidence being used to justify the proposals to fortify flour, nor the appropriateness of using flour as a vehicle to achieve this outcome. We do, however, have the experience and authority to comment on the practical implications of implementing what is proposed:
The mandatory fortification of all flours (which is one of the options being proposed in the consultation), could have a serious effect on the future viability and integrity of Fosters Mill, such that we may have to cease flour production; putting at risk our thriving flour business and one of the main sources of income to sustain this important historic Grade 2* listed building.
Practical Issues relating to traditional mills adding folic acid to all flours:
Fosters Mill has no suitable equipment to accurately mix folate into flour, whether it is incorporated into Creta Plus (the product used to fortify white flour), or otherwise. Neither does the mill have the capacity required in terms of mixing equipment, elevators, augers or hoists required to mix all flour being produced by the mill – something that may be required if the decision is to fortify all flours. The space available in the mill and the listing status of the building would also prevent the installation of the machinery required.
Even if we were able to install the machinery required, the cost of purchasing, installing, the consequent training and staffing of the additional processes required would be prohibitive to the financial viability of the mill. As such any requirement which arose as a result of this consultation would potentially lead to the mill ceasing to produce flour putting at risk the future sustainability of the mill as an historic listed building.
The milling process undertaken in traditional mills is not compatible with accurate dosing of flour with additives. To be able to add folate to all flours produced, we would need to create a whole new production process. This not only requires the investment in machinery, the costs of which are prohibitive, but also the staffing of a new production process which adds costs / time to a production process which is already a very low margin activity from a financial perspective.
Given the above, the Traditional Cornmillers Guild and SPAB Mills Section (the national organisation which campaigns to protect and promote traditional mills) are urging the Government to consider an exemption for traditional mills producing less than 1000 tonnes of flour per annum. The combined production of traditional mills represents a minute fraction of the nation’s flour consumption, of total white flour (for which data is available), we represent less than 0.013%. As such, such an exemption will have no real effect on the success of the initiative, but will secure the future of Fosters Mill and other traditional mills.
What can you do?
Read the Traditional Cornmillers Guild Folic Acid Info Document for more information to help inform you.
Please then respond to the Consultation
Write to your MP raising your concerns
Tell all your breadmaker friends and ask them to respond to the consultation and write to their MPs
Please act NOW or we really could see the day when The Prior’s Flour (and the flours produced by many other wind and watermills) is no more!