Thursday, 16 September 2010

Bread Head

Wheat.Image via WikipediaI can't help it. I just have to post the ingredients of Subway's 9 Grain Wheat bread. You'd have thought it was wheat, water, nine grains and yeast, wouldn't you? Well, you're wrong. I know I'm an obsessive, but have a quick read and see if you want to put THIS in your mouth:

9-GRAIN WHEAT Enriched wheat flour (wheat flour, barley malt, niacin, iron, thiamin mononitrate, riboflavin, folic acid), water, yeast, high fructose corn syrup, whole wheat flour, wheat gluten, contains 2% or less of the following: oat fiber, soybean oil, salt, wheat bran, rolled wheat, rye nuggets, dough conditioners (DATEM, sodium stearoyl lactylate), yeast nutrients (calcium sulfate, ammonium sulfate), degermed yellow corn meal, rolled oats, rye flakes, caramel color, triticale flakes, parboiled brown rice, refinery syrup, honey, barley flakes, flaxseed, millet, sorghum flour, azodiacarbonamide, natural flavor (maltodextrin, natural flavor, silicon dioxide, lactic acid). Contains wheat.
Let’s just take a look at that list, shall we?

Enriched wheat flour (wheat flour, barley malt, niacin, iron, thiamin mononitrate, riboflavin, folic acid). This is an interesting start. The addition of vitamins (niacin etc) to flour is typically mandated in the US, where processing gives a white, fine flour free of the wheat germ, which can limit shelf life. Presumably adding barley malt to the flour is the reason for the term ‘enriched’ being used, because the other ingredients are merely to replace the vitamins and elements lost during processing, typically to the heat of the rollers that pound the powder. By the way, there are a number of other chemicals and additives used in making processed flour, including good old fashioned bleach (or Clorox if you prefer).

Water, yeast
Good stuff – something natural!

High fructose corn syrup
See yesterday’s post. This is not good. It’s used in processed breads to increase shelf life as well as increase elasticity. ‘Real’ bread tends to be dry and crumbly, what we want is softer bread that hasn’t got all those nasty chewy bits and if we can make it sweeter too, well, why not?

Whole wheat flour
Good stuff! Real whole wheat flour – it’s only the fifth ingredient by weight after the sugar gloop, so there’s not a lot of it in this ‘9 grain wheat’ bread. But every little counts!

Wheat gluten
Used to add elasticity, it’s basically wheat that’s been washed in water.

Oat fiber, soybean oil, salt, wheat bran, rolled wheat, rye nuggets
93% of all US soybean crops are genetically modified. Just thought you ought to know that.

Dough conditioners (DATEM, sodium stearoyl lactylate)
DATEM? Oh yes, Diacetyl Tartaric (Acid) Ester of Monoglyceride to you. An enzyme used to make softer, more chewable bread. And while sodium stearoyl lactylate sounds scarier than DATEM, it’s a very common emulsifier found in most processed breads.

Yeast nutrients (calcium sulfate, ammonium sulfate)
You’ll know calcium sulfate better as gypsum, while aluminum ammonium sulfate is a firming agent. Not sure how they’re yeast nutrients, but I’m sure the chaps at Subway know best.

Degermed yellow corn meal, rolled oats, rye flakes
All unassuming ingredients.

Caramel color
Woah, there. Caramel colour? In a whole wheat bread? Surely it’d be brown enough from the huge amount of natural stone-ground whole wheat flour that… oh, okay. Point taken. They dye their bread brown.

Triticale flakes, parboiled brown rice, refinery syrup, honey, barley flakes, flaxseed, millet, sorghum flour
Triticale is a grain, but what’s brown rice doing in my bread? Some nice (cheap) refined syrup for sweetness and even a little honey, too…

This stuff is nasty. It’s a permitted additive in the US but banned in Europe and using it in food will send you to jail for 15 years in Singapore. It’s primary use is in foaming plastic, but in breads it’s a flour bleaching and improving agent. In baking, its use produces biurea, which is a really unpleasant chemical.

Natural flavor (maltodextrin, natural flavor, silicon dioxide, lactic acid)
Maltodextrin is a powerful chemical sweetener (as if we didn’t already have HFCS, refined syrup and honey in this stuff!). And natural flavor simply is not natural – it’s an amazing piece of double-speak used to denote wholly artificial, chemical flavourings that are synthesized by ‘reverse engineering’ truly natural flavours. Only in America could you get away with calling a wholly artificial product ‘natural’. Silicon dioxide is an anti-caking agent, while lactic acid gives a sour flavor

Contains wheat.
Little enough of it, eh? I mean, given what else this stuff contains, it's almost a surprise!

And if that little lot didn't make you want to gag and send you off to bake your own bread, take a read of this!

2014 Update: After someone whose blog gets read posted about the issue in 2012, Subway has now announced it will remove Azodiacarbonamide from its bread. Worryingly, the move is 'pending government approvals', which leads you wondering what the hell you're putting in bread that a government needs to approve. Flour, water, yeast. Maybe salt. Erm, what more do you need?


Grace @ Sandier Pastures said...

If any product contain any ingredient that's difficult to read, then it's not 'real' food.

Great post.

More and more people should know the myth behind these supposedly healthy "whole wheat" stuff in the grocery shelves/fastfood.

I've been suffering from migraine over the years and eliminated breads since last year (unless I make them but not using white bleached flour) and surprise, surprise, migraine was gone. Imagine those chemicals I've been consuming...

Sorry for the long comment!

Luke said...

Fantastic post. When living in Dubai one of the biggest problems we had was getting decent bread. We bought a bread machine and made it ourselves from scratch in the end. Now living in Germany we are spoilt for choice with 7 family-run bakers within 5 minute bike ride. We buy bread and rolls fresh every day. You have to as the next day it's not edible.

Desert Orchid said...

Why the surprise? Subway does not serve real food. It is manufactured gloop to appeal to the childlike American palate. Eat there at your peril.

Susan said...

Yuck yuck yuck!! My principle with ready made food is not to buy anything with more than 5 ingredients and if I don't recognise any of them don't buy it at all. Real food is much nicer anyway.

i*maginate said...

I'm really impressed you went to all this trouble. Actually, bread makes me sleep. Weirdest feeling ever if I have it - it's like being asleep with your eyes open and your mouth can't move! Doesn't work for me.

Brian said...

i take it you want me to bring the odlums for christmas then?????

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