Summer: What's Hiding In Your Supermarket Bread?

Later today, we will be looking at village shows and how the simple act of baking your own bread is an act of defiance.

What's in your shop bought bread?



Seriously, we are not being pedantic or being right on. We are not Citizen Smith. This is not power to the people unless that power is baking. We just want to take an average loaf to look at some of the ingredients we have all eaten (including us) when we decide to buy mass produced bread. Now, mass produced bread has some serious logistic problems, not like the bread you bake; you only have to ship it from the oven to your worktop. The average mass produced loaf can travel hundreds of miles just to get into your lunch box. The argument about carbon footprint is therefore one that is hard to quantify and it's not what this blog post is about. Andrew's Granddad was a Master Baker, so bread runs in our blood, but we both remember a time that buying a mass produced shop loaf was sneered about. We came from a generation that had parents who cooked and baked. Shop bought mass produced bread was a dire emergency. We knew back then they weren't good for us, we didn't have the science, but we had the taste and we knew they didn't compare to what was baked in the local bakers or what was in the oven at home. Nowadays, we know that massed produced bread, now a common staple, has been linked to increased salt intake and has been cited as one of the causes for the rise in obesity, cholesterol and cancer. Some bread is literally killing us. This is no longer just a case of too much wheat and gluten being bad for us, it's about what else lurks on the ingredients list. We have taken one popular brand of loaf, which we will not name as the ingredients list is common in many loaves on the shelves today, and we have looked briefly at some of the products from its list of ingredients. This is not a scientific report, and we have tried to be honest and get things right but this is a field still being argue, like tobacco was still being argued about thirty years ago. Some of the ingredients listed here are not just about personal health concerns but ecological concerns, where the manufacturer is trying to make out they are ecologically sensitive and pulling the wool over our eyes.

Wheat
The growing of wheat in a monoculture system actually contributes to the world's continued problem with soil erosion. We actually lose around 13% of soil each year to monoculture. In the USA alone over 450 million acres of land is given over to wheats and beans. Around 7.8 million of acres in the UK are under wheat or grains. As a planet we consumer over 600 million acres of wheat but are losing 13% of that a year in the fight to maintain this monoculture.

Water
Water is a given in bread but look at this interesting article about how much is wasted in the production of food and how around 50% of food produced never makes it to the dinner table.

Let's skip to some biggies, we're brushing over yeast, salt, vegetable oil and even the worrying rapeseed oil which is again, like wheat, is linked to erosion of soil in the UK. Let's go to a worrying phrase...

Sustainable Palm
The term 'sustainable' is a PR exercise here and one measured by eight principles, which you can find here. We're not going to argue about these eight principles because there simply isn't anything to argue, they are paper thin when it comes to sustainability on terms of biosphere. The sustainable here is in terms of buying rather than eco. Palm oil is destroying our farm land, the forests and jungles of our planet are being cleared for it. It has destroyed entire communities, forced indigenous people off their own land and has driven animals, insects and even tribes to the point of extinction. This is a high yielding oil, you get more bang for your buck, but you have to brush everything else under the carpet. It is the super crop of the future and if projections are right, it will do more damage than rapeseed and wheat put together. It will strip our planet of farmland and biodiversity.

Soya
This was once touted as a super food and was a wonder crop of the 1990s and 2000s. Did anyone notice that soya is slowly being out foxed by quorn? Quorn takes up less growing room than soya. Soya, once hailed as a superfood has now been linked to a decrease in male fertility and certain cancers. It is also one of those hidden foods and can be found in much of what we eat from pork pies to breakfast cereals. It's also used as feed for farm animals. It has been linked to soil erosion and the destruction of the environment as vast tracks of land are given over to its monoculture. It has been linked to the destruction of the rain forests, with 4 million hectares in South America a year being uprooted for the production of soy beans and meat. Soy beans are also being used in the production of biodiesel.

E481 and E472e
Though there are no links that E481 is dangerous, it is another sodium salt being added to your food. E472e is an emulsifier, a fat being added to your food and has been linked to kidney and liver problems. 

Calcium propionate
This is added to you bread to stop it from turning. It inhibits fungus and was until recently deemed save. Then it became linked to inflammation of the stomach and severe stomach ulcers. It can permanently damage the stomach but what is more scary other than being linked to gastritis, is that there are concerns that it results in sleep disturbance and behavioral changes in children. 

There is much more in your bread and this is only one loaf in hundreds but you have to ask, would you sit there now and happily put your sandwich filling between two sheets of calcium propinionate or E472e or soya or sustainable palm? Would you happily munch on that? Or do you want to take the means of production into your own home and realise that bread should only be at it's heart: flour, water and yeast. Maybe we are asking you to be a little Citizen Smith but it's better to know what's in your daily bread rather than the producers of bread knowing exactly what they are putting into you.



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