GENflex Weekender – Why King John of England Would Ban the Sale of San Francisco Sourdough Bread

March 2nd, 2024

sourdough bread

I remember growing up in San Francisco, you could buy some of the city’s famous sourdough bread rolls in any corner grocery store. They were ten cents each, and if they were fresh, they tasted better than any candy bar on the shelf.

There would be a big container at the front of the store, and you would reach in and pull out as many as you wanted. No one knew who made them, nor, it seemed, did anyone care.

Well, in the early 1200s, King John of England enacted the Assize of Bread. An assize was an ordinance or regulation, and this one stated that “upon every measure, bushel, weight, and upon every loaf, the name of the owner (i.e., maker) [must be] distinctly written.”

In other words, they were one of the first food items that had to have a label on them.

The attempt here was to inform the consumer – using a labeling system – who made the bread and thereby help consumers determine if it was someone or some company they could trust. It also allowed the government to track down bakers who used inferior ingredients or marketed products that caused illness.

By the mid-1600s, Massachusetts and Virginia adopted regulations similar to those of the Assize of Bread. In time, they expanded labels to apply not just to flour and bread items but also to meat, pork, wine, and butter. At that time, butter was considered the most adulterated (meaning not too healthy) food product sold to consumers.

By the 1900s, food labeling surpassed anything King John had in mind. In 1938, Congress passed the Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act. It required, among other things:

· A food product will be considered “misbranded” if its labeling is false or misleading.
· The sale of one food under the name of another (baker) is prohibited.
· A food product will be considered misbranded if its container is made, formed, or filled in such a way as to mislead the consumer.
· The label must bear the manufacturer’s or packer’s name and place of business.
· Information on the product label must be prominently displayed and easily readable by the consumer.

So, what’s our takeaway? It is that one of the most essential roles product labels play is to help ensure the health and safety of consumers. It’s good we’ve got them.

GENflex Labeling Solutions has been a leading provider of packaging and labeling solutions for over 60 years. Our goal is to always be on time, on-spec and on budget.  That’s how we help our clients succeed. Visit us at:


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