A baker in a starched cap kneads the dough from perfectly white flour — and then proudly takes out of the oven tall loaves with golden crispy crust and snow-white fluffy crumb. Of course, this picture from the commercials is familiar to many of us. Bread made from flour-“snow white” really looks very aesthetically pleasing. However, are the methods used by manufacturers to achieve the perfect whiteness of their product so harmless?
A little history
It would seem that there is nothing particularly complicated in the production of flour: it is enough just to pass the grain through the grinding device. Our ancestors used special stone millstones, later water and windmills appeared. Now lovers of bread and homemade pastries use either special hand mills or coffee grinders.
However, here’s the bad luck: regardless of how many times you sift the homemade flour, it will still retain a grayish tint, which will be more or less pronounced. Naturally, the question arises: why is the flour that we buy in the store so white? Are there really special devices at the disposal of manufacturers that allow sifting flour to the state of “snow white”? There is another curious nuance. Housewives who love homemade bread know that home-ground flour is a product whose shelf life is extremely limited. Bugs are quickly started in it, after which it remains only to throw it away. At the same time, oddly enough, store-bought flour-“snow white” attracts all kinds of animals much less often. What is the reason for this?
Cleaning flour – is it useful
The first step on the way to bleaching flour to an “advertising” state is its purification. However, the thing is that the waste contains components that are useful for our health, giving the flour a grayish hue: fiber, vitamins, trace elements. They are the ones that attract a variety of bugs-worms in home-ground flour.
Store-bought flour, from which the lion’s share of useful substances has been cleaned, boasts a longer shelf life. The problem is that its health benefits are minimal, since it is practically starch in its pure form.
However, cleaning is not everything. The next step on the way to giving store—bought flour such an aesthetic snow-white shade is bleaching. In order to make their product more presentable, manufacturers use chemicals, not all of which are harmless.
Flour bleaching – what is used?
A variety of substances, both organic and inorganic, are used for bleaching flour. Let’s consider only the most common of them.
This potassium salt of inorganic origin can be designated as a food additive E924a. It has a high solubility in water. During the baking of bread under the influence of high temperature, potassium bromate is transformed into potassium bromide. This substance is considered harmless. Bread baked from flour with the addition of bromate is distinguished by a very lush and incredibly white crumb.
At the same time, in a number of countries, the use of potassium bromate in the food industry is banned. These are USA, China, EU states, Canada, Russia, Brazil. According to animal studies, bromate can provoke the appearance of malignant tumors of the thyroid gland and kidneys in laboratory rodents.
This substance, which looks like a white powder, is designated as E928. In the bakery industry, it is used to improve the properties of flour — it becomes looser, “airy” and acquires a lighter shade. In addition, E928 is used in the production of oils and cheese, as well as in the cosmetic industry. However, in its pure form, this substance is a dangerous carcinogen.
This inorganic compound is known as E923 or ammonium salt. It is referred to as the so-called “third class” of danger. This is due to the fact that when inhaling ammonium salt, it is possible to develop suffocation and a strong allergic reaction.
This is a compound that is obtained as a result of the oxidation of uric acid. For animals, it is extremely toxic. Alloxan is able to provoke necrosis of pancreatic and kidney tissues in our smaller brothers, changes in thyroid and adrenal tissues. In addition, it is this substance that is used in laboratory conditions to provoke experimental diabetes in rodents.
Researchers claim that alloxan is less toxic for humans than for representatives of fauna. However, studies that would definitively put an end to this issue have not been conducted to date.
Despite the presentable appearance of white flour, you should not get carried away with baking from it. At best, it is simply useless, and at worst it can even cause damage to health. Therefore, it is advisable to switch to grain bread and master the wisdom of home grinding and baking.