French President Macron Seeks UN Protection for the Baguette

The iconic loaf is already protected by French law.

By Ethan L. Johns
January 16, 2018

Image: PHILIPPE LOPEZ/AFP/Getty Images

Their “Gastronomic Meal” may already be recognized as intangible cultural heritage, but the French—forever proud of their culture and history—were not likely to stop there.

On Friday, French President Emmanuel Macron took up the cause of the National Confederation of French Bakery and Pastry, and declared his support for the addition of the French baguette to UNESCO’s list of Intangible Cultural Heritage.

“The baguette is envied around the whole world,” he said, addressing a gathering of master bakers at the Élysée Palace. “It’s necessary to preserve its excellence and our know-how, and it’s for that reason that it needs to be listed as heritage.”

The demand for heritage recognition would be an extra level of protection for the bread. The traditional baguette is already protected by the French government under a 1993 law which limited its ingredients to flour, water, yeast and salt. No freezing is allowed.

Yet, as a symbol of day-to-day existence for many, the baguette is frequently seen to be under fire. For example, in 2013, panic that ensued after people realized that bread consumption was falling. Today, controversy rages among bakers who feel their livelihoods are being threatened by cheap, frozen, industrial bread, pumped full of additives.

The fear is as much about continuing the tradition of awesome bread as it is about health (when this writer was in Paris last month, a baking student described to him that regular, non-traditional baguettes are basically equivalent to poison.)

The sudden surge in support for the baguette’s recognition was undoubtedly sparked by UNESCO’s recognition of the “Art of the Neapolitan Pizzaiuolo” in December.

“I know our bakers,” Macron continued. “They saw that the Neapolitans had succeeded in having their pizza classified as world heritage by UNESCO, so they asked themselves, why not the baguette? And they have a point!”

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About Ethan L. Johns

Ethan is the Food News Writer at Genius Kitchen. An expert on the Parisian bistrot, he likes bitters and salted butters, and is no fan of dessert unless it's made with fruit. His hobbies include reading up on the history of borscht and attempting to roll perfect couscous by hand. Twits & Instagram @EthanLJohns