It is no secret that I became a card-carrying label reader and avid googler of all things food while developing food products for a large Canadian company.
I have seen the inside of many factories producing food for mass distribution. I have had to study and research food ingredients to ensure regulatory approval and to ensure a sufficient shelf life. My colleagues and I used to joke that ‘our employer was the best university in the world for learning all about processed foods’. And now as a parent, navigating grocery labels in terms of health I believe my food industry experience was just that…no joke.
I am often asked why I avoid commercial baked goods like the plague. Because over and above the undesirable GMO wheat and oils, there are a host of unsavoury chemicals used to cheapen production and to extend shelf life. Sadly, many of them are linked to ill health. Unlike when I worked for Big Food having to go with the status quo, I now exercise the option to avoid some ingredients.
Here’s the dirt on the ingredients I choose to avoid:
Azodicarbonamide: As time=money, processors use this to speed up the wheat production process. So we all get a dose of this dastardly chem. in most of our commercial baked goods. Next time you eat fast food, don’t just sweat about the health of of what’s inside the bun, consider also the bun itself. Europe got wise a while ago and banned it as BOTH a plastic blowing agent ( yes its used in plastics too) and a flour whitening agent as it is linked to respiratory issues.
Calcium Propionate: Used to prevent mold growth in baked goods, this chem. has been linked to irritability, restlessness, inattention and sleep disturbance in children who consume it daily. A 2002 study cited in the Journal of Paediatric Child Health confirmed the details. Who thought it was a good idea to have bread last two weeks and to potentially harm human health?
BHT (Butylated Hydroxytoluene): This is a preservative and a quite controversial one at that. Widely used, it is considered a human respiratory irritant, as well as a human allergen and carcinogen. BHT and its cousin BHA are flagged for future assessment under Canada’s Chemicals Management Plan. So why would I eat it until they figure it all out? Check commercial cereals and chewing gum as well.
So now I opt for smaller, organic producers when I do buy baked goods. If you make the switch, the first thing you may notice other than feeling better is that your bread no longer lasts for two weeks. If you really think about what that means, you may come to realize its a good thing 🙂