Thursday, 18 October 2012

Food Additives, Whats Really in Your Loaf

I love bread. Fact. I don't really know why. I think it might have something do with the fact that its so fun to make or that its such a versatile food or maybe even that it tastes nice. Actually I'd like to amend that last one. Real bread tastes nice, not the everyday impostors that sit on the shelf of every supermarket. But Calum, the supermarkets sell handmade bread from their bakeries, surely thats not what you mean? Well other than the fact that they look better, they still contain just as much rubbish. Let me explain.

To make a very basic loaf of bread, you need flour, water, yeast and salt. Now I have an everyday supermarket loaf in front of me right now so allow me to list the ingredients in it. Flour, Water, Salt, Yeast, Soya Flour, Emulsifiers (Mono and Diacetyl Tartaric Acid Esters of Mono, Diglycerides of Fatty Acids, Sodium Stearoyl-2-Lactylate), Preservatives (Calcium Propionate), Flour Treatment Agent (Ascoribic Acid) and Folic Acid. Thats a lot of extras....

So what do they do or why are they there?

1a. The Emulsifiers (Mono and Diacetyl)
These chemicals are found in a variety of baked goods and allow watery and oily substances to mix more easily, giving the bread a smooth finished texture. They also act in prolonging the life of the bread preventing it from becoming stale. The APPEAR to be safe from a toxicity and health point of view.

1b. The Emulsifiers (Sodium Stearoyl-2-Lactylate)
This chemical helps to make the bread lighter and give it a better texture. There are not direct health issues although it may exacerbate digestive problems in people who are lactose intolerant.

2. Preservatives (Calcium Propionate)
This additive to prolong the life of the bread by keeping it free of mold. This preservative has been linked to allergic reactions in bakers as well as sleep problems and restlessness in children.

3.Flour Treatment Agent (Ascorbic Acid)
Its not all bad news. Although its is still an additive, this little acid is a naturally occurring compound that contains antioxidants and is a vitamer belonging to the vitamin C family.

4. Folic Acid
This is also another good one as it part of the vitamin B family and is very important for pregnant mothers as it plays a huge role in the development of the unborn fetus.

5. Fatty Acids - Partially Hydrogenated Oils
Theses really are the bad guys and are beginning to be banned in many parts of the world because of the health dangers. If you see any product containing these additives, steer clear of them. Also known as the more infamous Trans Fats, they help to extend the shelf life of many products and naturally occur in animal milk and body fat. In our bodies they increase cholesterol, giving an increased risk of heart disease, diabetes, cancer, obesity, infertility, Alzheimer disease and major depressive disorders.

The time of the bakers has gone. Bread, in the UK at least, is rarely ever made by hand, although supermarkets seem to get away with saying it is. A good friend of mine worked for a large supermarket chain as a 'baker'. I was really interested in finding out what he did, the money was good (better than a chefs), maybe I could do it. So I asked him, "What do you do? How do you make the bread?", his reply, "Dude, I just put the ingredients in a machine and the bread comes out the other side." Naturally my reaction was "Um...What now?" Yep, the wage might be the same but the age of the artisan baker is fast fading.

Hope you enjoyed this post, thanks for reading. Until next time, carry on cooking...

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