What exactly is in our bread?
Surely we should be able to buy a loaf of bread and believe that it is a simple and necessary food. However many of us are turning away from bread due to bloating, feelings of lethargy and a general belief that carbs are bad for you. On the other hand, as a staple, bread should be the staff of life. Shouldn’t it? Unless we have the facts presented to us it is difficult to make a judgement.
The Real Bread Campaign exists to raise awareness as to what actually goes on in the bread making industry and to promote independent bakers. The Real Bread Campaign is part of the charity Sustain, the alliance for better food and farming and much of their work is raising awareness.
The nasty bits
The campaign has deep concerns about additives. They believe that people should be aware of the possible side effects from the long list of permitted additives allowed in bread. The Food Intolerance Network claims of propionates (an additive commonly found in packaged bread) that: “Reactions can be anything from the usual range of food intolerance symptoms: migraine and headaches; gastro-intestinal symptoms including stomach aches, irritable bowel, diarrhoea, urinary urgency, bedwetting; eczema and other itchy skin rashes; nasal congestion (stuffy or runny nose); depression, unexplained tiredness, impairment of memory and concentration, speech delay; tachycardia (fast heart beat); growing pains, loud voice (no volume control); irritability, restlessness, inattention, difficulty settling to sleep, night waking and night terrors.” That might well make you think again when snatching a loaf of pre-packed bread from the shelf. Propionates (E280) are just some of the permitted additives.
The Real Bread Campaign produced a thorough report which took nine months to complete. In “Are Supermarket Bloomers Pants?” they contacted six major supermarkets to get them to come clean about what is in their so-called fresh baked bread. As you can imagine where they got a reply, it was not as full or informative as they would have wished for.
The Real Bread Campaign also state, “It should be noted that loaves, dough or flour imported from or via other EU or EEA member states is not subject to UK regulation.” So there is even less control on what goes into our food, which is particularly concerning when we have limited supplies of flour in the UK, due to the poor harvests caused by extreme weather conditions. The expensive so-called artisanal bread sold in supermarkets is often no more than an expensive rip off. The Real Bread Campaign is asking supermarkets to “stop using ‘artisan’ and similar terms for any bakery products that have not been made from scratch using all natural ingredients and traditional techniques by trained and experienced craft bakers”. What most people don’t realise is that they are not safe spending extra on bread that looks fairly rustic; they still contain the dreaded flour improver, or flour treatment. These are additives combined to improve baking functionality. Flour treatment agents are used to increase the speed of dough rising, which makes more bread, therefore more profit. A proper artisan baker will not use these, allowing their breads to rise naturally. It is commonly believed that this quick rise is the cause of the unpleasant bloating that can occur after eating bread.
With this information, would you now think twice about spending your hard earned dough on what is essentially a big con? To make some small protest, seek out your local baker, making bread in the traditional way. Or bake your own. There is nothing more blissful than creating your own bread, either by hand or in a bread-making machine. Choose your flour carefully; many well known brands contain imported flour which is not subject to UK regulations. Doves Farm organic flours and some of the smaller mills produce good quality flour. Just remember to check the label. Bread making is surprisingly easy and the actual making process takes about 10 minutes; it is the proving (or rising) that takes the time and this can be fitted in around other activities. If enough people take up a stance on this, perhaps we can get more accountability for what goes into our bread. See my recipes for a simple way to make your own. The Weekend Loaf is an easy way to make bread for the weekend, cutting down on waiting for it to prove by a slow rise in the fridge overnight. For a really tasty and healthy loaf check out my Spelt Bread. Happy Baking!