DOUGH conditioners, which are additives used to enhance flour’s strength and elasticity, along with coloring agents, are used by bakeries and pastry shops throughout the Kingdom. The International Agency for Research on Cancer considers one such chemical, potassium bromate, a possible carcinogen. This has led the European Union, Canada, China, Brazil and many other countries to ban its use.
In the Kingdom, the Saudi Food and Drug Authority (SFDA) bans the use of several chemical additives and severely limits the use of others, which means bread and other pastries potentially contain harmful ingredients especially if used excessively, Al-Riyadh daily reports.
According to Dr. Fahd Al-Khudairi, a medical researcher, most types of bread, whether white or whole wheat, sold at local markets contain yeast and dough conditioners.
“You can tell if a cake or any type pastry has these conditioners by pressing onto it and see if the texture is soft and light. These conditioners are harmful because they contain sodium sulfate and hydrogenated oil,” he explained.
Dr. Ghadeer Al-Shammary, professor of nutrition at King Saud University, warned against the excessive use of dough conditioners as they can have negative effects on consumer health.
“Authorities in charge of monitoring bakeries and pastry shops need to run periodic inspection visits and take samples from bread and pastries for testing. They should ensure that these places follow the proper hygienic and safety requirements for making bread,” she said.
To minimize exposure to harmful additives, nutritionist Saleh Al-Jafari recommends the use of whole wheat dough to make bread because it contains a lot of nutrients, vitamins and fibers.
“It (whole wheat bread) prevents high blood sugar and slows the secretion of insulin in the body. It is important that hydrogenated oil is replaced with olive oil and sugar with honey and salt with lemon. Yeast is not as bad as dough conditioners if used in smaller amounts. However, it can have negative effect on people who suffer from gout,” she explained.
Healthy eating habits
According to nutritionist Sattam Al-Bishri, the majority of people in the Kingdom eat white flour based bread, which contains very little vitamins and fibers. Consumers often have few alternatives as most supermarkets offer a limited selection of whole-wheat flour based bread and pastries.
For a balanced diet, the use of oatmeal, whole-wheat flour, whole-wheat grains and bran are recommended for making bread. Consumers should stay clear of preservatives, industrial sweeteners and dough conditioners as they do not add any nutrients to bread.
Dr. Riyadh Al-Zaheb, assistant professor of therapeutic nutrition, Tabuk University, said bread is one of the basic components of all three meals in the Kingdom, which makes it even more important for people to eat the right kind. “It (bread) plays an important role in food security. Making bread with the use of dough conditioners and other unhealthy materials can have a negative impact on all of society. In fact, the use of oxidants, emulsifiers and other similar ingredients are subject to strict legislation and safety standards to ensure that people eat healthy bread,” he said.
He called upon the concerned authorities to draft stricter legislation for importing ingredients used in making bread and pastries. He also suggested that all ingredients be clearly listed so consumers can make educated choices.
“All bakeries and pastry shops should clearly display information about the ingredients of their products and show the date of production and expiration,” he said.