Wednesday, June 24, 2009

What's in Your Bread?

I've been looking more carefully at the ingredients in the products I buy... A while ago, I discovered that they use things like "azodicarbonamide" in bread, especially at fast food chains, and generally in cheaper bread. I've even seen bread that was marketed as "Natural" but that had azodicarbonamide listed as one of the ingredients. Huh?! You can make wonderful bread with just flour, yeast, water, and salt. I can understand adding things like calcium propionate as a preservative to give bread a longer shelf-life, but the use of azodicarbonamide seems unnecessary and unhealthy.

Read the Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS) for azodicarbonamide here. According to the MSDS, the chemical can cause an allergic respiratory reaction. Apparently, azodicarbonamide is used as a substitute for potassium bromate (toxic!! potential carcinogen) to improve the quality of flour. It bleaches flour by oxidizing carotene and increases flour strength by oxidizing cysteine to promote gas retention in the dough (fluffy bread?) and improve the elasticity of bakery products. Theoretically, once it has reacted with flour, it is converted to biurea, which is stable under baking conditions, and there shouldn't be any azodicarbonamide left in the bread after baking. My question is, if it's not in the bread anymore, why is it listed as an ingredient?? What's somewhat disturbing is that the chemical is banned as a food additive in Australia and Europe...which means there's probably a good reason to avoid bread that is baked using it.

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