Wednesday, 27 May 2009

Hidden processing aids: allergens and GM

As we have outlined on the Real Bread Campaign website, some processing aids available on the market for use in the baking industry are of GM origin, whilst others are known allergens.

Although food labelling law allows processing aids to go undeclared, allergens and substances of GM origin used in food production do have to be listed.

But not all of them.

Having contacted the Food Standards Agency for clarification, we have learnt the following:

Allergens: as they are not on the list of specified allergens*, enzymes derived from fungal sources do not have to be listed. So, even though it has been found to cause an allergic reaction in some people, fungal alpha amylase does not have to be listed.

Genetically Modified Organisms: Processing aids do not fall within the scope of the GM food and feed regulations (EC/1829/2003). Therefore, even if the production of a loaf involves a processing aid that is an enzyme produced by a GM fungus or bacterium, the label does not have to declare so. The same applies to enzymes from non-GM fungi and bacteria that are cultured on material of GM origin.

It’s now pretty certain that production of any factory loaf could involve the use of processing aids. We are assured by The Federation of Bakers that their members use nothing of animal origin unless stated on the label but as for processing aids, they are remaining tight-lipped.

If any of this is concern and if you are lucky enough to have a local baker, we suggest you pop round and have a chat. He or she should be able to let you know exactly what is and isn’t used in their bread. Hopefully, you’ll find that they are baking Real Bread (see our Real Bread Finder for more) without the use of any processing aids or artificial anything.

* Allergen labelling regulation means that the use in food of wheat, rye, barley, oats, crustaceans, molluscs, eggs, fish, lupin, peanuts, nuts, soybeans, milk, celery, mustard, sesame and sulphur dioxide (at levels above 10mg/kg or 10 mg/litre) and any derivatives thereof must be listed on the label.

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