Bread with question markRecently the BBC featured an article about an American company’s new process of zapping mold spores so bread can lounge around kitchens mold-free for 60 days. Ducky. Somehow the story didn’t mention the taste or feel of that bread at the end of two long months. It did say, however, that consumers might not so quickly jump onto this new technology.

To put their case in a positive light, a company executive explained that currently bread manufacturers load up bread with preservatives to fight mold. They then blitz the bread with extra chemicals to mask the taste of those preservatives. Tumbling bread in their new mold-killing machines would eliminate all those extra additives and chemicals.

On the subject of bread additives, I just came across a more detailed explanation of the hair added to some breads, a subject I earlier wrote about in Hair, Beetles and Beaver Anal Glands in Food. Listed on labels as Cystine, treated hair is a cheap dough conditioner used to speed up the industrial processing of bread and other baked goods. Cystine can also be produced in the lab, but it’s a more costly process than using cheap hair so you can guess which one Big Food embraces. According to three different hair suppliers, cystine is comprised of duck feathers, chicken feathers, human hair or (a new one on me) hog hair. Stop reading here if you easily gross out. Halal Media goes on to inform us that “Most of the human hair used to make cystine is gathered from the floors of barbershops and hair salons in China.” They add that Muslims and many rabbis forbid the consumption of anything derived from a human body. Or a corpse. And “since much cystine comes from China, where sourcing and manufacturing practices are notoriously questionable, this is a real concern.” (Gulp.)

Next we come to another dubious bread additive — wood pulp. Vastly versatile, wood pulp is processed into Cellulose, a food extender and cheap stand-in for more costly bread fibers. To give you an idea of its questionable talents, cellulose also ends up in products like pet litter, brake pads, glue, plastics asphalt and roof coating.

On top of that, the cellulose in bread is indigestible. Which helps explain upset stomachs after eating breads particularly heavy in the stuff. All in all, it’s a food additive with only one thing going for it. Its’ cheapness. But apparently that’s sufficient reason for large food corporations to appropriate it as a filler in the industrial breads we eat. Poor bread. What will Big Food do to it next?

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