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Pressure group calls for enzyme labelling on packaged bread

By Lindsey Partos , 29-Apr-2009

A food pressure group in the UK is urging consumers to place stickers on plant produced bread in a move to highlight the unlabelled processing aids used in breads formulated by the 'big bakers'.

As part of Sustain's 'Real Bread Campaign', the organisation has created 'warning stickers' that consumers can place on packaged bread.

“The food regulators, like the financial ones, have been asleep on the job, allowing big bakers to adulterate our bread with cocktails of undeclared enzymes,” said Andrew Whitley an artisan baker and co-founder of the Real Bread Campaign.

A food enzyme is obtained by extraction from plants or animals or by a fermentation process using micro-organisms and is added to food to perform a technological function in the manufacture and processing of foods.

Processing aids, such as enzymes, are used by bakers in the production of bread. Under current EU rules, because enzymes are destroyed in the baking process and not active in the final food product, they do not need to be listed on the ingredients label.

The Real Bread Campaign is calling on bakers to voluntarily stop the use of processing aids and "to list the details clearly on their product labels in the meantime".

European consultation on food enzymes

Earlier this month, the European Food Safety Authority kicked-off a consultation on its draft guidelines for evaluating the safety of food enzymes.

The adoption of the new FIAP (food improvement agents package) regulation (1331/2008) at the end of 2008 means that enzymes used as processing aids must be approved prior to their use in the UK. Until now approval has not been required for most of the EU, with the exception of France and Denmark.

The burgeoning bakery enzyme market

The accelerating market for bakery enzymes is worth about $230m(Euro173m), estimates ingredients player Danisco, which gives the sector about a quarter of the $830m (Euro625m) total world enzyme market.

According to research organisation Leatherhead Food International, in recent years the enzymes market has "benefited greatly" from innovation, particularly enzymes that extend the shelf-life of baked goods.

The bakery industry principally uses four types of enzymes. A report from market research firm Frost & Sullivan states that amylases are used to convert starch to sugar and to produce dextrins while oxidases are used for strengthening and bleaching of the dough.

Further, proteases and hemicellulases are the enzymes which act on the wheat protein, gluten while hemicellulases improve gluten strength, proteases reduce gluten elasticity.

"All these enzymes together play an important role in maintaining bread volume, crumb softness, crust crispiness and browning and maintaining freshness," said the Frost report.

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