The Daily Mail has claimed that despite the newspaper’s campaign to improve the quality of British bread 100 years ago, it is in fact worse than in 1911.

Propped up by comments from the Real Bread Campaign (RBC), the article points the finger at enzymes used in bread, which do not have to be declared on labels, and claimed there was growing belief that modern industrial baking methods may be behind the rise in digestive illness such as gluten intolerance.

Although he admitted that humans are often sensitive to enzymes, which can be found in both food and non-food products, Stan Cauvain, bakery consultant at BakeTran said that the enzymes used in baking are ‘de-natured’ and therefore did not exist in the same form coming out of the oven as going in.

He said that bread was infinitely better now than it was 100 years ago, in terms of both quality and safety, not least due to today’s strict regulations regarding ingredients.

“High-speed production processes, such as the Chorleywood Bread Process, have actually reduced the number of additives in bread that would have been used by bakers 100 years ago,” added Cauvain.

He stressed that additives such as the preservative calcium propionate, which the article stated “may cause eczema and behavourial problems in children”, are highly regulated by law and he said he was not aware of any bakers even using as much as the maximum level allowed. Just for cost reasons alone, bakers aim to use as little of these ingredients as possible, he noted.

However Chris Young from the RBC, said the Campaign believed the use of processing aids was not regulated enough. “They can be used in any combination, without testing that such cocktails are safe, and we are not re-assured that all use meets the legal defining criteria ‘...residues do not present any health risk and do not have any technological effect on the finished product’,” he said.

“More importantly, manufacturers are hiding behind current labelling legislation that denies people the right to know exactly what has gone into the making of the food they are feeding to their families. To allow fully-informed consumer choice, a change in law is needed, preceded by voluntary declaration by manufacturers.”

Countering Cauvain’s point that high-speed bread processing had reduced the number of additives used, Young said: “We don’t believe that industrial loaf manufacturers are using fewer additives, simply that they are switching to the category of additive known as processing aids – marketed to them using terms such as ‘clean label’ or ‘label friendly’. We believe that this is nothing short of legalised deception.”