Bad bakery science

08 April, 2011
Page 39 

Behold, a double whammy of cack-handed scientific reporting of breadmaking (yes, only two it was a quiet couple of weeks). Kicking things off was food journalist Alex Renton, who wrote in the Daily Mail: "Most popular sliced brands have preservatives and mould inhibitors, such as calcium propionate and ascorbic acid". As one of Stop the Week's army of scientific fact-checkers duly noted, the only time you might claim ascorbic acid as a 'preservative' is when it is used as an anti-oxidant in fruit juices. It is, of course, used for dough development in bread. Meanwhile, calcium propionate is increasingly out of favour and "most" plant bread bakers use vinegar (acetic acid), while some use fermented wheat flour to help inhibit mould.

Next up is The Telegraph's consumer affairs editor Harry Wallop, who wrote that white bread is sometimes made with "bleaching agent" potassium bromate, overlooking the trivial fact that it was taken off the permitted list of bread additives in 1990. Indeed, it is not even a bleaching agent, and flour millers had largely stopped using bleaching agents before the bakers stopped using bromate. Stop the Week pointed out the error and The Telegraph has since removed the reference online. Alas, the same credit cannot be applied to The Mail.





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