Healthy Living on May 6 2015 by Cassidy Stockton
What Is It? Wednesday: Bromated and Bleached Flour
Today we're going to tackle these two mysterious terms often found on packages of all purpose white flour. This is one of our most requested topics and we're more than happy to clarify these two unpalatable terms. What does "bromated" mean? Bromated, by far the less common of the two terms, is a process in which potassium bromate (bromate) is added to flour to improve baked goods. Why would bromate be added to flour? It is added to improve rise and elasticity of dough. In many countries around the world, bromate is a banned food additive. It is not banned in the United States. Why you ask? In theory, because bromate is an oxidizing agent, it should be fully consumed in the bread baking process and there should be no bromate in the finished good. However, if the conditions are off (think not baked long enough), some bromate will still be present in the baked good and that, in our opinion, is not good. You see, bromate has been linked to cancer in some lab studies and, while it is not a banned food additive, the FDA discourages its use by bakers. What does "bleached" mean? Like bromate, bleach is a chemical that is added to flour. The bleach used for flour is not the same as the bleach you'd use on your laundry, but when you look at their chemical make-ups, they might as well be the same thing. Why would bleach be added to flour? Quite simply: to make it whiter. There is some claim that it helps with gluten activation, but the main reason is that people want their white flour to be really white. To understand this, let's take a brief foray into the history of white flour. How did this come to be? Historically, all flour was whole grain flour--typically wheat. The history is complicated and long, so for the purpose of this article, let's just say at some point, millers and bakers discovered that you could sift flour to make it lighter. They discovered that removing the germ and the bran from flour made a lighter baked good (and it lasted longer). Because this process (called bolting) was time consuming, white flour was an expensive ingredient reserved for the upper classes. Over time, technology advanced and white flour became very easy to produce on steel roller mills. White flour became advantageous: it had the desired baking properties that everyone wanted to enjoy, it was very cheap to produce, and it had a much longer shelf life than whole wheat flour. Because it was cheap to produce, it became a staple. What was once a food of the elite, was now a food of the masses. Traditionally, white flour was aged and it came out fairly yellow. Not cornmeal yellow, but not white either. Aging white flour helped the flour develop gluten and produce better baked goods. As with so many processed foods in our world, chemicals were brought in to do faster what nature did over time. Bromate and bleach were added to flour to shortcut the aging process and provide a truly white product. With modern technology, white flour can be sifted to produce a very white flour with no chemical bleaching. However, bleaching flour is still a common practice. Bromating is less common, but a quick online search proves that you can most definitely still buy it and that it's still being used in industrial food applications. Are Bob's Red Mill flours bromated or bleached? No, absolutely not. We do not believe in using either of these chemicals and we encourage you to look for brands, like ours, that do not bromate or bleach their flours. Our white flours are not bromated and not bleached. Instead, white flour typically contains malted barley flour, an ingredient that has the same effect as bromating without adding crazy chemicals. It adds a little extra sugar to the flour to produce stronger gluten reactions. If you choose organic, the flour will not contain malted barley flour, neither will it be enriched, bleached, nor bromated. Enriching white flour will be another story for another day. We hope this helps clear up some confusion. If you have further questions, please leave them in the comments and we'll do our best to answer them.
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We source all of our products from farmers who attest to not using such practices.
So I was relieved to find that our favorite Bob's Red Mill products are not enriched with folic acid. Keep up the good work!
"Cassidy Stockton July 5, 2016 at 9:46 am
I think it was removed primarily for design. We do not and have not ever bromated our flour. " (Bob's Red MIll's Answer)
"Sarena Shasteen March 20, 2018 at 8:24 am
The conventional varieties are enriched while the organic varieties are not. " (Bob's Red Mill's answer)
If Bob's Red Mill's conventional varieties are "enriched" "that means they are bromated" because most flour used for bread has been "enriched" with "potassium bromate. "
So, How do you say "we do not bromated our flour" ???
Do you use bromine in your products? (organic or conventional)
Thank you for the answer.
Super Fine Cake Flour 8-9%
Unbleached White Fine Pastry Flour 8.5-9%
Whole Wheat Pastry Flour 8-11 %
Unbleached White All Purpose Flour 10.5-12.5%
Whole Wheat Flour 13%-15%
Artisan Bread Flour 13-15%
I will not knowingly consume bromated or bleached flours. I am a stage 4 metastatic cancer patient and my physicians are convinced that the biggest reason I have survived this long is my particular attention to my diet.
I use most of your products and I am so grateful for these very healthy items.
Thank you very much.
I was going to buy Red Mills oat flour on amazon.com.
It put out a warning that this product contains potassium bromate.
I believe you guys and think that this warning is outdated.
Please contact amazon to change the warning if not true,
otherwise many buyers will be driven off.
For our organic version, the Organic Unbleached White All Purpose Flour, it's not about it being undesirable, but about following USDA Organic standards. The other enrichments included in the non-organic version are synthetic and therefore do not fall under USDA Organic standards.
The other enrichments (niacin, thiamine, folic acid, etc.) included in the non-organic version are synthetic and therefore do not fall under USDA Organic standards. Our Organic Unbleached White All-Purpose is not enriched at all and simply milled from organic hard red wheat. If you have more questions, please feel free to reach us directly at [email protected]