On my bread improver post the other day, Garcott made mention of some of the questionable ingredients in the improver. Here's some of what she said:
"I have been reading about the stuff that bread improvers are made from - including chicken feathers and pig intestine!"
I was intrigued, so I looked into it further...
The ingredient she's concerned about is E920, or L-cysteine. It can also be made from human hair (soylent green IS people!) Manufacture of E920 from human hair apparently only occurs in china, but then it can be exported, of course. Human hair derived E920 is banned in Europe, I'm not sure about Australia.
Other options for manufacturing E920, besides those mentioned by Gartcott, include using pig bristles or duck feathers.
Now, "Nose to Tail" eating is an excellent concept, but not one I manage very often in my own kitchen. The idea of pig snout for breaky quite honestly turns my stomach. So, if industry can use the left overs that I don't want, that's excellent. Good job, industry!
As for the human hair... Well, I was initially repulsed by the idea of this, but then I got to thinking. The humans aren't slaughtered for their hair, or kept in feedlots, and it's probably providing a source of income to people who really need it. The hair is so highly processed that any bugs or nasties would be totally removed. (Unlike my hair I found in my veggies the other day - yuck!) So, in other words, it's actually pretty ethical and not as gross as it initially sounds.
Ok, lets move on from the squeamish bits. There has been a bit of concern on le Internetz that E920 is not listed on some ingredient lists even when it is used. That may be true for bread that is bought already baked, because the E920 is broken down in the baking process so isn't actually present in the final product, and some manufacturers use this as a loophole. However, it would be present in its initial form in the bread improver so should be listed on the ingredients panel if it's included. It's NOT listed as an ingredient in Wallaby Bread Improver.
However, to find out the full scoop, I rang Laucke Flour, the manufacturers of Wallaby Bread Improver.
(Yep, I'm now officially one of *those* people. Did I ever mention one of my friends rang Arnotts to find out the correct pronunciation of "Nice" biscuits? It was to settle a long term argument. He couldn't find anyone at Arnotts who could tell him, so the debate continues. It's been ten years and counting! Anyway, segway complete, back to the story.... where were we? Oh yes, I rang Lauke.)
I wanted to find out if they did somehow sneak in E920, and if so, its source. And their answer? They don't use it. At all. Not in the manufacture of their Improver, and not in the final product. Apparently, its use is becoming increasingly uncommon, as it has fallen out of favour over the last decade or so.
So, even though E920 (from either animals or human hair) might be ok in my book, it's not in my bread regardless.
But I can't guarantee the same for shop bought bread....
Hair sandwiches, anyone? ;)