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Calm Down, There’s No Baguette Crisis in Paris

In what could probably be a regular segment called “Busting the Click-Bait Misinformation”, yet another “news” story circulating in the English-speaking press about Paris needs correcting.

– France fears baguette crisis as bakers allowed to take holidays (Daily Telegraph, UK)

– What a pain! Parisians are facing a baguette crisis after change to French law gives bakers the summer off (Daily Mail, UK)

– Paris faces ‘baguette crisis’ as government axes archaic law banning mass exodus of bakers (Evening Standard, UK)

– SACRE BLEU! Parisians fear baguette shortage as bakers go on vacation (NY Daily News, US)

Exaggeration and fear-mongering apparently get clicks (duh, no breaking news there). As usual, they all seem to have rehashed the exact same story (typical when reporters no longer do original research), all quoting some mysterious guy, Anthony Stephinson as the expert on the subject of Parisian bakeries (he happens to be a British desiger living in Paris). No actual stats or bothering to do even the most basic research to get the facts straight.

These are the facts:

– Yes, France had a law dating back to the end of the French Revolution that would assure access to bread by requiring bakeries to alternate their summer closing times (so only half would ever be closed at any given time), and to post the address of the nearest open bakery when they were closed. Pharmacies are subject to a similar law.

– For years many French bakeries who were losing money by staying open when too many of their clients were on vacation simply closed anyway and paid the fines. 

– In 2014 the French government decided to do away with the archaic law, thus removing the bureaucratic nonsense of having to enforce it, and allowing the bakers the freedom to decide for themselves what would best serve their clients and their bottom line.

Editorial aside: This is what should be getting headlines! 

Instead of the English-language press focusing on the newsworthy fact that France has modernized and streamlined their laws to give French boulangers the right to make their own business decisions, they look for the negative angle. And when there isn’t one, they just make it up.

– Not only did half of the bakeries in Paris stay open anyway (particularly in any areas where there are tourists or a majority of the locals who stay and work all summer), the danger is that they still have too many unsold baguettes, not a shortage.

The French press had a lot of fun discrediting the badly-researched articles:

 Plenty of bread in Paris: French media deny reports of ‘baguette crisis’ (RFI English Version)

Don’t panic, there is no ‘baguette crisis’ in Paris! (Du Bon Pain)

Tous les Boulangers du quartier fermes au mois d’Août, c’est normal (BFM TV, in French

Non, Paris n’est pas menacée par une pénurie estivale de pain (Le Figaro, in French)

– Cet été, les boulangers parisiens partent en vacances quand ils veulent (Le Parisien, in French)

– The France-based British tabloid The Local also “reported” on the supposed crisis with a whopping one reader quoted as proof of the “crisis”, but had to “amend” their article due to all of the mocking by none other than Buzzfeed, who actually did their own research (I can’t believe I’m saying anything nice about Buzzfeed) to demonstrate the sheer stupidity of this non-crisis. 

In my neighborhood at the edge of the Latin Quarter and the Butte aux Cailles, three of the four bakeries within a block have remained open all of August (two closed for a week or two in July). Within three blocks there are four more bakeries, two which are closed for two or three weeks this month. All of them are excellent, although of course I have my preferences and don’t always like walking the extra block. 

Call it a First-World Problem, but don’t call it a “crisis”. 

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