In the old days, bread would go stale within a day or two of baking, and start to grow mold in 3 to 4. But today, you can buy a bread that will stay soft and fresh for two weeks and even more. Try baking bread at home and see how long it lasts…
Part of the miracle of stay soft forever bread is an additive called azodicarbonamide, which plays 2 important roles in mass manufacturing of bread:
- bleaching agent – it makes the bread whiter by reacting with cartonene in the flour.
- improves flour strength - this improves the dough’s ability to retain gas and makes the bread more elastic.
Azodicarbonamide (E927) is an orange, odorless, powder. It has non-food applications such as a foaming agent in plastics, in photography and electronics.
Is it safe?
Depends who you ask.
Europe and Australia ban the use of azodicarbonamide because it is a “respiratory sensitizer” that can cause asthmatic and other allergic reaction. In Singapore, the use of azodicarbonamide in food products can lead to a lengthy jail sentence.
And in In the US? Azodicarbonamide is considered GRAS (Generally Recognized as Safe) by the FDA. Despite being “safe” it can be added to flour only in tiny amounts – 45 parts per million!
What to do at the supermarket:
Although reading the ingredient list for bread seems more daunting than reading the Bible in Latin, you should seek short ingredient lists that begin with 100% whole wheat, that don’t contain azodicarbonamide and these four other ingredients.
- Kim C, Cho J, Leem J, Ryu J, Lee H, Hong Y. Occupational asthma due to azodicarbonamide. Yonsei Med J. 2004; 45-2: 325-329.
- Normand JC, Grange F, Hernandez C, Ganay A, Davezies P, Bergeret A, Prost G. Occupational asthma after exposure to azodicarbonamide: Report of four cases. Brit J Ind Med. 1989; 46: 60-62.
- Vlastos D, Moshou H, Epeoglou K. Evaluation of genotoxic effects of semicarbazide on cultured human lymphocytes and rat bone marrow. Food Chem Toxicol. 2010; 48: 209-214.
- Ye J, Wang X, Sang Y, Liu Q. Assessment of the determination of azodicarbonamide and its decomposition product semicarbazide: Investigation of variation in flour and flour products. J Agr Food Chem. 2011; 59: 9313-9318.