E282 – Calcium propionate
Calcium propionate “Occurs naturally in swiss cheese; prepared commercially from propionic acid. The propionates occur naturally in fermented foods, in human sweat and in digestion products of ruminants.”
Function: Preservative – antimicrobial mould inhibitor, especially those which occur in bread.
Effects: Some reports link propionate with migraine headaches. The Bakers’s Union in the UK has banned it’s use in its pure form because it provokes skin rashes in bakery workers.
Do we really need mould inhibitors in our bread? Wouldn’t you rather eat it before it got old and stale? Especially if it can cause migraines in people with already sensitive immune systems and digestion.
A study in the “Journal of Paediatric Child Health” in 2002 reported that although calcium propionate may have little to no side effects on the average person, chronic exposure, especially in children, might induce a myriad of behavioral changes. A controlled group of children fed a strict diet without any food additives was compared to a group that was given traditional bread each day. The clinical trial revealed that “irritability, restlessness, inattention and sleep disturbance in some children may be caused by a preservative in healthy foods consumed daily.” These behavioral changes appear to be reversible when the preservative is removed from the child’s diet.
Which bread has calcium propionate? So far I’ve found it to be present in Genius, M&S gluten free and Newburn Bakehouse and I’m sure others. It is also used in most normal bread and baked goods too, not just the gluten free stuff.
Can you use natural mould inhibitors?
If bakers use vinegar to clean utensils and machinery and baked goods are allowed to dry completely before being bagged there should surely be no need to added mould inhibitors.
I found this reference: “Mold inhibitors can be added to breads to lengthen their shelf life. “Natural” mold inhibitors, such as acetic acid (vinegar); raisin-juice concentrate; and glucono-delta-lactone (found in honey, fruit juices and wine) act by reducing pH to retard the initial growth of mold. The food additives propionate and sorbate are effective against mold at low concentrations, but don’t affect product pH. “Fermented wheat flour and cultured whey function as natural sources of calcium propionate,” says Beavan. Propionates and sorbates can be added into dough, batter or filling formulations. Propionates are most effective against mold and bacterial growth. Sorbates inhibit yeast as well as molds, and are used more in cakes, pies, fillings and icings. Both types can be applied as a water-based surface spray to English muffins and scones.”
If there are natural sources of mould inhibitor would they work just as well? or would vinegar for instance affect the flavour? What worries me is the quote above that fermented wheat flour and cultured whey function as natural sources of calcium propionate. Is this the kind bakers are using? Might this be causing me the nodular prurigo and eczema that I get when I eat freefrom gluten free baked goods?
I can tolerate them if I eat them in moderation but can never incorporate as a staple part of my diet. I couldn’t eat gluten free baked goods every day or my skin would be awful.
But do most people consume calcium propionate without any problems? Should I be worrying about this anyway? I guess it’s maybe just me with my ‘processed food free’ attempt at life that I wonder why these strange things are added to our food.
Can you be allergic to calcium propionate?
I couldn’t find any scientific references to allergies to calcium propionate, only some suggestions that it may cause migraines and behavioural changes. So the jury is out. I know most gluten free bread manufacturers try to keep this ingredient to a minimum but what if they stopped adding it altogether?
Would a more natural alternative work just as well?
- E for Additives by Maurice Hanssen