More bread baiting came at the hands of The Sunday Times this week (and a copycat story in The Times on Monday), which castigated wholemeal bread for nearly doubling levels of sugar over the past 30 years.
The nub of the report was that the sugar content in a typical loaf of wholemeal bread rose from 2.1g per 100g in 1978 to 3.7g per 100g in a Hovis wholemeal loaf today. It compared 1978 data, gleaned from McCance and Widdowson’s The Composition of Foods, with a loaf plucked from the shelf - in this case, Hovis, which uses a small amount of brown sugar.
So why is there more sugar in our bread, it asked. Is it added to make loaves more palatable, perhaps compen- sating for cuts in salt urged by the FSA? Perhaps, but what the report failed to note was that sugar is not a common added ingredient in all wholemeal loaves.
One plant baker told me that his supermarket loaf contains no added sugar. Despite this, a quick look at the nutrition label showed carbohydrate sugar content similar to the Hovis loaf. So are there labelling inconsistencies? As one scientific expert noted, nothing underhand is going on and "nobody is concealing the addition of sugar in bread".
A sticking point is that ’sugar’ has not been defined in this debate. A whole host of reasons could be behind increasing levels of sugars - from the addition of malt to wheat variety changes having a difference on carbohydrate levels, to the increased use of enzymes, which generate more maltose in the fermentation process, even in no-time doughs. Nutritional analytical techniques have also improved significantly over the past 30 years.
Even so, with 100g of wholemeal bread - typically two-and-a-half slices - weighing in at less than a teaspoon of brown sugar, this doesn’t quite compete with a can of Coke (10 teaspoons of refined sugar) for a sugar rush strong enough to get the kids climbing the curtains.
Also in the news this week, congratulations are due to the NA’s new chairman, Shirley Ryder, and president, Mike Holling, and to Simon Solway, who has taken over as president of the newly named Alliance for Bakery Students & Trainees (see pgs 6 and 9).