Saturday, May 12, 2012

Hairy Bread

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? ;)

14 comments:

  1. Does human hair count for vegans I wonder?

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    1. Apparently it depends on the vegan! But mostly no. Unsurprisingly ;)

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  2. Nose to Mouth eating, fine if prepared by a world famous chef, sure, i'd eat pig snout for breakfast then, just don't tell me it's pig's snout!! Hair in food, doesn't that just happen when children are helping in the kitchen?? Tee, too scary to think what is in there, ice. Can't wait to know exactly what i'm eating off my own farm, bring it on, Maisie Cow for Sunday Roast, i can deal with that, love Posie

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    1. Maisie for this Sunday, next Sunday, and the thirty two Sunday's afterwards.... I'll come over and help you finish the shanks!

      I desperately want a milker. Do you think DHA would mind?

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  3. You are the Trixie Belden of bread improvers.

    I bought some yesterday, inspired by your price, but am yet to give it a go. Only through laziness not through any hair squeamishness. I figure if I'm willing to eat a Dagwood Dog at the show then a bit of ground up chicken feather or pig intestine is nothing compared to that.

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    1. After googling Trixie Belden (I was more of a Famous Five, Secret Seven Nancy Drew girl, myself) I happily accept your offered crown of perky golden hair. Gracias!

      I will NOT touch dogwoods dogs. Not out of squeamishness (remind me to tell you of the time I ate an entire boiled baby dove... Gag...) I just don't like the taste. Maybe I just had a bad run? They do seem popular...

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  4. Great Post! If we were to know every ingredient in every single thing we ate, we would probably bawk at most of the stuff we put in our mouth. And the fact that China uses some questionable ingredients in their products is, for me, the most compelling reason to buy Australian where I can. Few of us bawk at chocolate or lollies, but God knows what's really in it! (especially the cheap stuff...which by the way I don't buy or eat).

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    1. Very good point.

      I'm usually willfully ignorant about most sources, I don't really want to open Pandora's box... It's a general mix of apathy and laziness. Sticking to Australian made makes good sense, especially for the few things I do buy pre made. Thanks!

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  5. Thanks, this post is food for thought, pardon the pun. I guess the only way we can be sure about what we eat is to go completely unprocessed. There's some great resources and tips on a blog I've recently discovered called www.100daysofrealfood.com. Though in reality it's pretty hard to sustain these eating habits with all the busy shenanigans of day-to-day life.

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    1. Yeah, look, to be honest, the only way I could sustain that is if it were called "100daysofrealfoodDELIVERED.com"

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  6. I told you there was fur..........whether human or marsupial, but nope, you didnt believe me.....

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    1. I didn't! You were right! You're so wise... ;)

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  7. I'm not sure what Wallaby mean by 'enzyme' on the ingredients list. Any inspiration?

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    1. Most bread improvers have amylase (to quickly break down the starches into simpe sugars, to feed the yeast) and protease (to both soften and strengthen the gluten). These are usually made from bacteria. I'm guessing these would be the ones in Wallaby Improver too?

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