Bleached Flour Bad??!!
Posted: 15 May 2008 04:19 AM   [ Ignore ]
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I have been doing some online research and until now I had been neutral about bleached flour. I have followed Rose’s arguments. That the chlorine evaporates and is gone by the time the flour reaches the consumer. That we all drink chlorine in municipal water systems. Here is one abstract from a scientific paper that I found.

Chlorinated fatty acids have been found to be major contributors to organohalogen compounds in fish, bivalves, jellyfish, and lobster, and they have been indicated to contribute considerably to organohalogens in marine mammals. Brominated fatty acids have been found in marine sponges. Also, chlorinated lipids have been found in meat exposed to hypochlorite disinfected water, and in chlorine-treated flour and in products made from such flour. Following exposure to chlorine bleached pulp mill effluents, aquatic organisms may have elevated concentrations of chlorinated fatty acids in their lipids. However, a natural production of halogenated fatty acids is also possible. In this paper we summarize the present knowledge of the occurrence of halogenated fatty acids in lipids and suggested ways of their formation. In Part II (Trends Anal. Chem. 16 (1997) 274) we deal with methods of their determination.

  Emphasis is mine. Further reading in other papers reveals that chlorine reacts not just with lipids but with proteins as well. The health effects of the compounds that can be formed is not well understood but there are indications that significant health effects are possible. The tendency of lipids to be stored by the body leads me to fear that exposures can be cumulative.
  I haven’t been able to discover the European reasoning on this issue. Their regulatory philosophy is different there from the US. In most cases manufacturers must demonstrate the safety of their products. Whereas in the US the FDA must demonstrate harm. The European system is the one I prefer.
  In summary. I don’t care how much better the texture is or how much better the cake may taste. Until manufacturers conduct studies that demonstrate the safety of bleached flour my enjoyment of their product would be colored by this uncertainty. I will not use bleached flour.

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Posted: 15 May 2008 08:58 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
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Thanks Gene - this is interesting.  Considering my consumption of bleached flour is so limited, I will continue to use it when specifically called for in a recipe.

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Posted: 15 May 2008 12:18 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]
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Gene,

I’m also a bit uncomfortable with bleached flours, both all-purpose and cake.  I’ve been thinking about trying some of the sponge-type cakes with Italian 00 farina flour (available online) and seeing how they turn out.  Maybe this will finally motivate me to bake those experimental layers!

Best,
Julie

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Posted: 15 May 2008 01:52 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]
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The ‘Kate’ flour solution seems to be a good one. Has there been any formal resolution to this method yet?

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Posted: 15 May 2008 04:21 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]
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Gene, what levels are we talking about?  Eating a box of cake flour a day?  I believe there are bigger demons in our diet.

I believe that baked goods with bleached flour, and that does not contain emulsifiers or non-naturally occurring additives, are far healthier than baked goods made almost artificially.  It is INCREDIBLE that cake you buy at most grocery stores or even from fancier coffee/dessert shops sometimes don’t contain butter or eggs or cream, but instead the artificial stuff.

For example, you can eat healthier by avoiding sugar in cake or gluten in bread, but the “other stuff added” to make this look like cake or bread, can kill you.

I am not a nutritionist, but I believe that if you eat unprocessed foods as much as possible, then your body and digestive system will be fine to pass the bad stuff (sugar, gluten, soy, bleached flour, etc).

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Posted: 15 May 2008 05:47 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]
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Unfortunately none of these scientific papers are free on the internet so I don’t know details like measured amounts. Some of the ecological studies I read indicate that the chlorinated lipids are very stable and build up in ecosystems over time. They can even be passed to offspring in fish. They affect cell transfer mechanisms. It is not the one time exposure that concerns me but the lifetime accumulation of these compounds.
I must correct one thing you said. You included gluten and soy on your list of bad stuff. There is nothing wrong with eating gluten or soy.

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Posted: 15 May 2008 06:13 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 6 ]
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hectorwong - 15 May 2008 07:21 PM

I believe that if you eat unprocessed foods as much as possible, then your body and digestive system will be fine to pass the bad stuff.

I tend towards this eating philosopy as well—it’s really hard to avoid all processed foods and sometimes you just want a slice of cake made with cake flour and white sugar!

It’s a gamble, though. There’s always a chance that a bit of the “bad stuff” will affect you somehow. Science can help by trying to track down the worst stuff but that takes time & money & sometimes might not even be possible…

And even if we “pass the bad stuff” it goes off to the sewage plant and ends up in the evironment eventually, unless we are lucky and it biodegrades easily. I dimly recall a recent article about the amazing variety of manufactured compounds that can now be found in soils and water supplies. We have little or no idea whether soil organisms, plants & animals will be bothered by these or be able to tolerate them. Seems likely that some will be harmless, others may hurt or help some organisms to some degree—but it only takes a few really nasty ones to cause big problems. Think of DDT and bird eggs, or mercury compounds in fish (most lakes in Wisconsin are posted with mercury warnings).

Sigh. We ARE the scientific experiment and the next generations will have to deal with the results, whatever they may be. In the meantime, I plan to use bleached flours only once in a great while. We already do all our “everyday baking” and quite a lot of the “special baking” with organic unbleached flours. And I may look into Kate’s heat treatment method.

Seems like there could be a commercial future for the heat treatment method as bleached flours go out of use in some countries. Of course, who knows, maybe heat treatment could produce some nasty compounds too. Still, from what I’ve read, “organochlorines” are particularly suspect. Reducing use of chlorine and related elements like bromine seems like a good idea. This is an issue in Wisconsin because we have quite a few paper-producing factories. Environmentalists are pushing to reduce and then eliminate the use of chlorine bleaches for paper. Not sure what the status of the whole thing is…

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Posted: 15 May 2008 07:35 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 7 ]
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Gene, I looked up that article.  The article contains two citations of earlier work on flour, so, as far as I can tell there was no experiment here on flour—not sure why it ended up in the abstract. Here are the articles cited:

D.L. Heikes, J. Agric. Food Chem. 41 ( 1993) 2034-2037.

C. Komo-Suwelack, E. Schulte, L. Acker, Z. Lebensm. Unters. Forsch. 196 (1983) 169-172.

I found the first one, it is a basically a measure of the different levels of Fatty Acid Bleaching Adducts in different commercial food products.  The author concluded that cake flour has the most, although he found it in all flours, even those marked unbleached.  It seems like a pure measurement study, it doesn’t try to analyze the findings in terms of potential health risks, if any.

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Posted: 15 May 2008 07:50 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 8 ]
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I do try not to be too purist. The level of risk with any one exposure is almost always very small. Lots of little risks though start to add up. We try to eat minimally processed food.
I get the impression the US is one of the few countries that bleaches. I hate to defer to the socialists but just because they are bureaucrats doesn’t mean they are wrong all the time.
I think the Euroban may derive from some bromate studies.

Also watch out for bromates (usually potassium bromate), which are added to wheat and other flours to improve baking performance. Britain and other European countries banned bromates in baked goods during the 1980s, when studies found they increased the incidence of kidney tumors in rats. Bromates are still legal in the U.S. To avoid them, look for flour and bakery items marked ``unbromated,’’ which are available in supermarkets under some common brands, such as Pepperidge Farm.

This from Business Week.

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Posted: 16 May 2008 01:59 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 9 ]
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This is frustrating because I can’t seem to find any other citations.

I found this citation on wiki but if you follow the links you find out that the compound noted causes diabetes only in animals and only in high doses.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flour_bleaching_agent

There also doesn’t appear to be anything from the Eurocrats about what they based their ban on. Lots of opinions and very few facts. Sigh.
Why is it always about religion?

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Posted: 17 May 2008 12:16 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 10 ]
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Thanks for looking for more information, Gene!

I can accept that we—both individuals and governments—have to make decisions based on incomplete and preliminary information. It can take a long time for scientists to really nail something down. But isn’t it frustrating when you can’t even find out any of the information they used to make the decision?

If you come up with anything more, please do let us know. Thanks again!

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