France Seeks Cultural Protection for Baguettes

France Seeks Cultural Protection for Baguettes
iStock/lechatnoir

If that long loaf of crusty bread you’re buying includes any added preservatives, dough softeners, or fillers, France’s President Emmanuel Macron says it shouldn’t be called a baguette. 

“The baguette is the envy of the whole world,” he said, lending his voice to a group of French bakers seeking Unesco protection for the baguette –nearly as synonymous a symbol for France as the Eiffel tower or the beret.

“When I see the quality of bread in supermarkets, it is impossible not to get angry,” Dominique Anract, president of the National Confederation of French Patisseries and Bakeries (CNPBF), told food website Atabula. “The bread is frozen, some of it comes from Romania or who knows where, nothing is carried out in accordance of the rules of the art.”

Many bakeries around the world sell baguettes–and many do it justice–but it’s more than just making a loaf look the part, says the group. There’s not just the name and shape of the loaf but the recipe and ingredients, which are flour, water, yeast, and salt. If it’s been frozen or contains added ingredients, the bakers say it’s no longer the iconic baguette.

“Excellence and expertise must be preserved, and that is why it should be heritage-listed,” President Macron told French radio last Friday.

Unesco’s heritage list is used to protect cultural traditions from being commodified through globalization. It’s not exclusive to food, either. The list includes Spanish flamenco, yoga, and Belgian beer. France has seen other traditional foods protected like Champagne and 56 types of cheese are protected under French law that prevents similar products not made in France from using the same names.

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Jill Ettinger

Jill Ettinger is a Los Angeles-based journalist and editor focused on the global food system and how it intersects with our cultural traditions, diet preferences, health, and politics. She is the senior editor for sister websites OrganicAuthority.com and EcoSalon.com, and works as a research associate and editor with the Cornucopia Institute, the organic industry watchdog group. Jill has been featured in The Huffington Post, MTV, Reality Sandwich, and Eat Drink Better. www.jillettinger.com.