Monday, January 31, 2011

What exactly is in your store-bought bread?

Readers beware: your bread purchases are about to change forever - for the better! Don't worry - I have also included lots of options of how to make or buy REAL bread.

First, things that are in my bread; flour (usually both white and wheat, this time rye), salt, sugar, water, yeast, sometimes a fat.

The things in store-bought bread: 

This a table taken almost entirely from Andrew Whitley's book Bread Matters, pgs. 8-13. Any of my additions are added in italics. 

What does it do?
What’s the problem?
Main ingredient: source of carbohydrates, protein, fat, minerals, vitamins and other micronutrients.
Many nutrients are depleted in refined (white) flours.
Added to refined flour: Nicain, reduced iron, Thiamin Mononitrate, Riboflavin, Folic Acid, Calcium Sulfate
Restores lost vitamins and minerals to refined flour.
Synthetically derived; why not just use what nature provided before it was refined?
Necessary to make flour into dough.

Adds flavor; strengthens the gluten network in the dough; aids in keeping the quality of the bread (as a water attractant and a partial mold inhibitor.)
Under pressure from food agencies, the bread industry is gradually reducing levels of salt in bread.
Aerates bread, makes it light in texture, and may contribute to flavor.
Excessive use may lead to digestive problems. (Jenn’s note: ever wondered where gluten intolerances came from?)
Hard fats improve load volume, crumb softness, and keeping quality. Hydrogenated fats have been commonly used, thought plant bakers are phasing them out.
Not essential in traditional breadmaking, though often used. Hard to do without some fat in industrial bread. (Jenn's note: the fat in the label above is from canola and/or soy, which are generally derived from GM crops unless certified Organic.) 
HFCS is an artificial sweetener derived from corn that has undergone an enzymatic process to convert glucose into fructose. Bakery items use HFCS 42 – meaning 42% fructose and 58% glucose.
All HFCS is derived from genetically modified (GM) corn. It is labeled “generally recognized as safe” by the FDA, yet has health and environmental concerns and some HFCS contains mercury, a neurotoxin. 
Non-fat dry milk
Is used to decrease staling rate, and improve crust color and softness.
Not essential in breakmaking, yet adds additional nutrition and calcium.
Flour Treatment Agent
L-ascorbic acid (E300). Can be added to flour by the miller or at the baking stage. Acts as an oxidant, which helps retain gas in the dough, making the loaf rise more.
No nutritional benefits to the consumer (because degraded by the heat of baking.) Increased loaf volume may give the false impression of value.
Chlorine dioxide gas to make flour white, used by millers for decades until banned in the UK in 1999. In other countries, eg the US, flour may still be bleached.
No nutritional benefits to the consumer. Chlorine is a potent biocide and greenhouse gas.
Reducing Agent
L-cysteine hydrochloride (E920). Cysteine is a naturally occurring amino acid. Use in backing to create more stretchy dough, especially hamburger buns and baguettes. 
No intended nutritional benefit, though also sold as a supplement. May be derived from animal hair and feathers. So vegans and vegetarians – watch out!
Soy Flour
Widely use in bread as “improvers.” Has a bleaching effect on flour, assists “machinability” of dough and volume and softness of bread. Enables more water to be added to the dough mix.
Increasingly likely to be derived from genetically modified soybeans. Over 90% of the acres of soybeans planted in the US are GM.
Widely used in bread “improvers” to control the size of gas bubbles, to enable to dough to hold more gas, and there grow bigger, to make the crumb softer, and to reduce the rate of staling. They include:
E471: Mono- and diglycerides of fatty acids
E472e: Mono- and diacetyltartaric acid of esters of mono- and diglycerides of fatty acids
E481: Sodium strearoyl-2-lactylate (SSL)
E422: Glycerol mono-stearate (GMS)
E322” Lecithins – naturally occurring, mainly derived from soy
No nutritional benefit to consumer.
Soy lecithin may be derived from GM soy.
Increased loaf volumes gives misleading impression of value and post-baking softness may be confused with “freshness.”
Calcium propionate (E282) is widely used. Vinegar (E260 acetic acid) is also used, though less effective. Preservatives are only necessary for prolonged shelf life. Home freezing is a chemical-free alternative.
No nutritional benefit to consumer. Calcium propionate can cause “off” flavors if over-used and may be a carcinogen.
Came to the rescue of industrial breadmakers when additives like azodicarbonamide and potassium bromate were banned. Bread enzymes fall into various categories and have varied functions in breadmaking;
Maltogenic amylase

Note: In general, these are use to increase elasticity, delay staling, increase loaf volume, give better crust color, and keep bread soft.

Interesting to note: the bread label I took a picture of does include the word "enzymes" as an ingredient. 
No nutritional benefit to consumer.
No requirements to be included on ingredient declarations, because they are currently treated as “processing aids.” Even if the EU law in amended, the single word “enzymes” will be all that is require on label, leaving consumers in the dark about the origin the particular enzymes used.
Often produced by genetic engineering, though this is unlikely to be stated on consumer product labels.
Use of phospholipase derived from pig pancreas would be unacceptable to vegetarians and some religious groups, but there is no requirement to declare enzymes, let alone their source.
Some enzymes are potential allergens, notably Alpha-amylase. Bakery workers can become sensitized to enzymes from bread improvers.
Amylase can retain some of its potency as an allergen in the crust of loaves after baking.
Transglutaminase may act upon gliadin proteins in the dough to generate the epitope associated with celiac disease. 

*Another thing to look out for is caramel coloring, which may give bread the appearance of wheat but will not have the benefits of whole grains. 

So, what to do? 

1. It may be time to start making your own bread! Check out the "Bread Recipes" page to get started, or find yourself a good cookbook! (Hayley and I had a blast making bread together!

2. Read the labels of your bread - and then only purchase bread if you are satisfied with the ingredients. 

3. Buy Organic bread - the Organic certification guarantees that there will be no GM ingredients, artificial chemicals or processing aids. Try Dave's Killer Bread

4. Find a local bakery and talk to the bakers, ask about how they make their bread and request an ingredient list. A great place to start around Bellingham - Avenue Bread! 

5. Enjoy your bread - enjoy the taste, the texture, and feel GOOD about the ingredients!