Before we dive into this subject, I want to take a moment to apologize. I want to apologize because we're getting to a point in this series where we're all about shattering the illusion of bread (aka bread-like products) available today on grocery store shelves.
When you look at the ingredient panel on a loaf of conventional grocery store bread many of the ingredients are added to make the product look, taste, feel and smell like a real loaf of bread. What doess it say about the state of bread and the baking industry when many of the ingredients are used to provide the illusion that it is the bread of generations past?
Let's take a look at some of the big, bad ingredients found in bread that you need to be aware and cautious of.
Bromide – aka Potassium Bromate
Certainly the biggest and most controversial dough conditioner out there is bromide. It was first used in the 1960s to replace potassium iodate because bakers claim it provides more dependable results and makes the dough more elastic which makes it easy to use for commercial baking.
The problem(s) with bromate? It is an endocrine disrupter which messes with the thyroid’s ability to produce and use iodine. Consuming a constant amount of bromate (in your daily bread perhaps) may eventually create a thyroid hormone imbalance. It is also believed to play a role in many different kinds of cancers (specifically in the kidneys and thyroid), cause DNA damage and have harmful effects on digestion and gut health.
This dough conditioner is currently banned in Europe, Canada, Brazil and China. In 1991, California added Potassium Bromate to their Proposition 5 list which means that products containing the dough conditioner must carry a cancer warning on them.
This dough conditioner in not banned in the United States because (in theory) the amount of bromate in a finished product should be next to nothing - something like less than 20 parts per billion. However, if bromated flour isn't baked long enough or at a high enough temperature or if there is too much added - the end product will end up having MUCH higher amounts of bromate in it.
Anyone out there think that there is regular testing for bromate in a completed loaf of bread? Or in fast food buns and flours?
Meet the additive widely and affectionately nicknamed "the yoga mat chemical" thanks to Subway when they announced back in 2014 that they were dropping the chemical. It earned this nickname because it's primary use is in plastic rubber products like flip flops and yoga mats. Sounds like just the ingredient you want in a loaf of bread, doesn't it?
This ingredient is often used in bread and baked goods because it makes dough more elastic and it bleaches flour. However, the trade off just doesn't seem worth it. Azodicarbonamide is known to increase the risk of asthma, allergies and skin problems. It also seems to heighten a person's allergic reaction to other ingredients in a food
This dough conditioner has been approved by the FDA for use in food in the US but Australia and many countries in Europe have banned it.
Experts around the world worry that it has not been adequately tested for the amount that people may be consuming. This concern is rooted in the discovery that over 130 well-known companies were found to use it including brands that use the phrases "natural" and "whole grain" on their products. So while a minute amount of this chemical is added to a loaf of bread - it's hard to see the cumulative effect this chemical could have on our health since so many products in grocery stores use it.
We also face the same insecurity as we do with potassium bromate - who's testing the end product to make sure it's safe, being used properly and has the right amount in it?
DATEM - Diacetyl Tartaric Acid Esters of Monoglycerides
This is a fairly controversial dough conditioner and there isn't a whole lot out there on it but there are a few things I have found that make it necessary to at least mention it.
This is a fairly common dough conditioner and emulsifier used to improve volume and uniformity. It also helps make the dough stronger and more durable which makes it easy to process in a high-stress commercial baking system. DATEM can also be used to replace lecithin in flour and can partially replace gluten.
It is a synthetic compound typically derived from soy, palm or canola oil but sometimes can be made from animal fats. DATEM can typically be found in breads, baked goods, energy bars, butter, non dairy creamer and packaged/canned frosting.
Here's where DATEM gets interesting: it is considered "safe" by the FDA (like all of the other ingredients above) however a study has come out that challenges that finding. A study in 2002 done on rats showed that DATEM caused "heart muscle fibrosis and adrenal overgrowth."
On top of that, Whole Foods considers it an "unacceptable ingredient" and has declared that it does not meet their Food Ingredient Quality Standards (here). Take a look in cyber space and you will find that DATEM is not endorsed by authorities in the natural health food world even though there's not a whole lot of information on it.
Could These Dough Conditioners and Additives Be Making Us Sick?
We're at that familiar place again where the answer to this question all depends on who you ask and who you trust. Just like we've seen with modern wheat and vital wheat gluten - there are government agencies and regulators who will testify that these dough conditioners are 100% safe for human consumption.
But it's really hard to ignore the fact that many countries and even whole continents have banned some of the ingredients we're eating and feeding our families here in the US. It's also hard to ignore studies that show the potential for very serious health issues created by these added ingredients.
As far as we're concerned, it is not on our authority that you should rest when making your personal decisions on these ingredients. We just feel it is our responsibility to give you information and encourage you to do your own research and discover your own personal truth.
What to Know About Berlin Natural Bakery
You are not going to find any Potassium Bromate, Azodicarbonamide or DATEM in our products.
One of the main reasons you will not find these (and ingredients like these) in our breads is because we are not mass producing our breads. We have highly skilled bakers who oversee our entire small batch baking process to ensure that we produce a high quality loaf of bread which means our dough does not need to be manipulated with added ingredients.
When you see our ingredient labels, you'll realize that NOTHING is added that you and your grandparents can't easily recognize and pronounce.
As we've said from the beginning - added dough conditioners is simply another piece of this complex food puzzle. Next, we'll be talking about synthetic vitamins used in bread to replace the natural ones that are destroyed during the milling and refinement process in most baked goods. Stay tuned because we have even more bread illusions to shatter - coming up!!