Why bread in Spain doesn’t taste the same anymore

Have you noticed recently that bread in Spain doesn't have quite the same taste as it used to? Here’s why.

Why bread in Spain doesn’t taste the same anymore
The change marks a "legal precedent" in terms of regulating food quality requirements in Spain. (Photo by AFP)

In Spain, bread is seen as an integral part of most meals, whether that’s as a bocadillo (filled baguette) or a tostada (toast) for breakfast, a basket of bread as an accompaniment to the main meal at lunch or bread eaten with cold cuts and cheese as part of tapas dishes in the evening. 

According to the latest figures available from Spain’s Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, Spaniards consume an average of 34.12 kilos of bread per person per year.

With that in mind, it’s clear that many in Spain will be able to tell if their bread starts to taste differently. 

This new taste is down to the fact that Spain’s Ministry of Agriculture has established a maximum amount of salt content for bread, a rule which came into effect on April 1st 2022.

Spaniards have bread with pretty much every meal of the day. (Photo by RAFA RIVAS / AFP)

The Ministry seeks to offer “healthier products and with the maximum guarantees” for consumers.

Bread in Spain is now less salty and therefore a bit blander in taste, but at least it is healthier. 

The new rule establishes that the maximum content of salt allowed in “common bread”, must be 1.31 grammes per 100 grammes of bread, if analysed by chloride determination. Or, 1.66 grammes of salt per 100 grammes of bread, if analysed by total sodium.

The new law defines “common bread” as being “made with flour or whole grain flour”, meaning that it affects both white and wholemeal breads.

The bread quality standard was approved in April 2019 by Royal Decree 308/2019 and came into force on July 1st of 2021, although the specific measure on salt content was postponed until April 1st 2022, so that manufacturers would have time to adapt their production processes and labelling.

READ ALSO: The products that are more expensive than ever in Spain due to the war in Ukraine

bread in Spain

Bread in Spain is now less salty and therefore a bit blander in taste, but at least it is healthier for you. Photo: Marta I. Seco/ Pixabay

Salt and health

This new law regarding the amount of salt allowed in bread will bring Spain more in line with the parameters of the World Health Organisation (WHO), which recommends a salt intake of less than 5 grammes (approximately 2g sodium) per person per day.

However, according to the Spanish Agency for Food Safety and Nutrition (Aesan), Spaniards consume an average of up to 9.8 grammes of salt per day. High sodium intake can contribute to high blood pressure and increase the risk of heart disease and strokes. 

Spanish Minister of Agriculture Luis Planas said that this change marks a “legal precedent” in terms of regulating food quality requirements in Spain and that this measure “encourages” consumption, with a reduced VAT for those products considered “healthier”, such as wholemeal or low-salt bread.

The changing habits of bread consumption in Spain

In the third quarter of 2021, according to the Agri-Food Sector Confidence Climate Barometer, 65 percent of industries detected an increase in the demand for ‘special bread’, particularly those made with sourdough.  

In addition, 75 percent confirmed an increase in the demand for bread made with cereals other than wheat and 90 percent considered that the low-salt standard “has helped to clarify” the characteristics and composition that different types of bread should have.

74.6 percent of consumers admitted that, with the new norm, there had been an “improvement” in the quality of the bread and, according to the survey, sourdough has seen the greatest increase in demand. 

READ ALSO: Where to buy the best bread in Spain (and now the best in the world)

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Spanish government divided over proposed menstruation leave bill

Talk of abortion policy reform and proposed menstrual leave has dominated Spanish discourse this week, but it’s also dividing Spain’s coalition government.

Spanish government divided over proposed menstruation leave bill

Spain’s PSOE-fronted coalition government recently outlined proposals that have dominated public discourse in the country.

But the legislation, which would allow women over the age of 16 to get abortions without the permission of their parents and introduce ‘menstruation leave’ for those suffering serious period pains, has not only divided Spanish society but the government itself.

The proposals would make Spain a leader in the Western world, and the first European Union member state to introduce menstrual leave, and changes to abortion law would overturn a 2015 law passed by the conservative People’s Party that forced women aged 16 and 17 to obtain parental consent.

The wide-ranging bill would also end VAT on menstrual products, increase the free distribution of them in schools, and allow between three and five days of leave each month for women who experience particularly painful periods.

READ MORE: What are Spain’s abortion laws for foreign residents and visitors?

Menstrual leave

Ángela Rodríguez, the Secretary of State for Equality, told Spanish newspaper El Periódico in March that “it’s important to be clear about what a painful period is – we’re not talking about slight discomfort, but about serious symptoms such as diarrhoea, fever and bad headaches.”

“When there’s a problem that can’t be solved medically, we think it’s very sensible to have temporary sick leave,” she added.

Cabinet politics

The proposals are slated for approval in cabinet next week, and judging by reports in the Spanish media this week, it is far from reaching a consensus. It is believed the intra-cabinet tensions stem not from the changes to abortion and contraception accessibility, but rather the proposed menstrual leave.

The junior coalition partner in government, Podemos, largely supports the bill, but it is believed some in the PSOE ranks are more sceptical about the symbolism and employment effects of the proposed period pain policy.

Vice President and Minister of Economic Affairs, Nadia Calviño, said this week: “Let me repeat it very clearly: this government believes and is absolutely committed to gender equality and we will never adopt measures that may result in a stigmatisation of women.”

Yet Second Vice President and Minister of Labour, Yolanda Díaz, who is viewed as further to the left than President Pedro Sánchez and other PSOE cabinet ministers, is reportedly “absolutely in favour” of the measure to reform Spain’s “deeply masculinised” labour market.

Sources in the Spanish media have this week also reported that some PSOE cabinet ministers feel the proposed paid leave not only plays up to stereotypes of women, or stigmatises them, like Calviño says, but also places them at a disadvantage in the world of work.

Minister of Inclusion, Social Security and Migration, José Luis Escrivá, stated that while the government should seek to improve women’s employment protections, it should also seek to boost their participation in the labour market under “better conditions.”

In that vein, some feel menstrual leave could be used a form of of employment discrimination similarly to how pregnancy has been historically, and the policy would, in that sense, actually be more regressive than progressive in enshrining women’s workplace rights. 

READ MORE: Spain eyes free contraception for under-25’s

Trade unions

Trade unions are also sceptical of the menstrual leave legislation. Cristina Antoñanzas, deputy secretary of UGT, one of Spain’s largest trade unions, has echoed those in the cabinet who feel the proposals could “stigmatise women.” She added that “it does women a disservice.”

Public opinion

A survey run by INTIMINA found that 67 percent of Spanish women are in favour of regulating menstrual leave, but also that 75 percent fear it is “a double-edged sword” that could generate labor discrimination.

The survey also found that 88 percent of women who suffer from disabling and frequent period pain have gone to work despite it. Seventy-one percent admitted that they have normalised working with pain.

Cabinet showdown

The proposed menstrual leave policy will be debated in cabinet next week when the Council of Ministers debates and approves the broader abortion and contraception reforms. According to sources in the Spanish media, and many cabinet ministers themselves, it seems a consensus on menstruation leave is a long way off.