Daily Mail London /
Pret a Manger’s ‘fresh’ baguettes are made in a French factory and can be kept for up to a year, the Mail revealed yesterday.
The sandwich chain regularly describes its products as natural and boasts of baking bread throughout the day in-store with ‘wonderful baker’s ovens’.
Of its baguettes, Pret’s website says: “The fresher the better.”
However, they are made on an industrial estate near Rennes by the global food giant Bridor. Part-baked and frozen to -18C, they are shipped to Pret stores where ‘best before’ labels suggest they can be kept in freezers for up to 12 months before use. Staff finish cooking the bread in ovens before adding fillings. “I can’t believe the bare-faced cheek,” said Chris Young of the Real Bread Campaign. “They merely use their ovens as “loaf-tanning” salons. This is downright misleading. To now learn that the factory isn’t even in the UK is simply shocking.”
The revelation follows news that a second Pret customer had died following an allergic reaction.
She was named on Monday as Celia Marsh, 42. The mother-of-five died last December after eating a ‘super-veg rainbow flatbread’ containing a yoghurt that was supposed to be dairy-free but contained milk.
Pret was already in the spotlight because of last month’s inquest into the death of Natasha Ednan-Laperouse from an allergic reaction to sesame seeds in a baguette that did not have specific allergen warnings on the label. The firm has pledged to review its labelling methods following criticism from the coroner.
The Bridor plant in Servon-sur-Vilaine that supplies Pret dominates an industrial estate just off the E50 arterial motorway across Europe. The complex is surrounded by a large security fence, with its financial success only alluded to by an adjoining glass building housing the headquarters of its multi-billion parent company, Group Le Duff. Bakers leaving the factory over the weekend were reluctant to speak and Bridor did not respond to requests for comment. However one worker in the firm’s head office confirmed the factory provided bread to Pret in Britain.
Bridor also has a base in Camberley, Surrey, staffed by young bakers from eastern Europe, France, Italy and even China, all working round-the-clock.
The Mail has seen a label from a box of 30 part-baked frozen Bridor baguettes which were in use at a central London Pret last week. The date of production was September 6, 2018, and the best before September 6, 2019.
Bridor is not believed to Pret’s only bread supplier. George Fuller of the Craft Bakers Association said: “Their products could easily be made in Britain, which is quite frustrating. Their decision to describe their products as fresh and natural has the potential to annoy our members. There is no legal definition for this, as such, so you end up in a situation where they can call their products what they want. “The demise of the high street baker is a serious concern to us and the fact a chain with such a big presence in Britain is making their bread abroad is a worry.”
Earlier this year, Pret was at the centre of a case involving the Advertising Standards Authority about the descriptions it uses for its products. As a result it was told to stop using the word ‘natural’ in its marketing and on its website because of the use of several additives in its supplier-made bread.
The Real Bread Campaign had found E-numbers in its bread which were not labelled on packs. However, Pret was allowed to keep saying its bread was freshly-baked as the ASA said customers would not necessarily think that meant it was made from scratch.
Pret did not dispute that it used Bridor as a supplier. When asked specifically about describing frozen products as fresh, it referred the Mail to the ASA ruling.
The Pret statement said: ‘The ASA ruled that consumers were unlikely to interpret “baked in store” to mean only products that were made from scratch using basic raw materials such as flour and butter. We considered that consumers were likely to interpret it to include products which were cooked from frozen raw dough or from part-baked dough.”
Pret also said: “Once the bread is fully-baked in shops it is sold on the day or given to charity.” There is no suggestion that Bridor was in any way responsible for Natasha’s death, a point made by a Pret a Manger spokesman.
The founder of Bridor is billionaire Frenchman Louis Le Duff, known as the “pastry king”.
He made his fortune after founding French cafe chain Brioche Doree in 1976. It now has more than 600 bakeries around the world.
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