Industrialization of the bread-making industry

An obvious trend that is threatening the bread market is the decreasing amount of bakeries. Since the last forty years, 40% of bakeries went bankrupt in France. Obviously there are many factors to be considered. However, but the biggest reason is the strong competition of big industrial bakeries and supermarkets (Fimbel-Bauer, 2019). The latter use totally different practices and production methods than small local bakers.

Industrialization and increasing productivity and efficiency are the main priorities of those big bakeries. They mostly strive to optimize their processes and offer their products or services at minimum prices in order to stay competitive in the crowded market of today. Unfortunately, these steps meant to cut costs or increase productivity are not always the most natural or traditional, and do not have a positive impact on human health.

One of these modern methods that became widely adopted in France is the “warm bread at any time” concept. As consumers are becoming picky, and more and more demanding, people in France would always like to buy fresh and warm bread. Therefore, bakeries decided to adapt the production process in order to meet the consumer’s requirement. The idea is to refrigerate the unbaked dough in order to bake it in the last minute, depending on the demand. However, it must be known that the fermentation of bread is an important process that allows yeasts and lactobacilli present in the leaven (sourdough starter) to ‘digest’ and break down a part of carbohydrates and proteins present in flour, gluten included (Nutter, Saiz & Iurlina, 2019). Reducing the temperature of the dough by refrigerating acts as an inhibitor to any chemical reaction, and prevents the fermentation process from happening, stopping the leaven from degrading (breaking down) the gluten molecules.

No other foodstuff has undergone as many genetic modifications as wheat, especially in such a short period of time…

In addition to the new bread-making practices, it is worth mentioning the grain production practices as well – in particular, wheat growing. As it is stated in the book “Gluten – Comment le blé moderne nous intoxique” (Gluten – How do modern wheat varieties poison us?), written by Julien Venesson (2013, p. 26-32), no other foodstuff has undergone as many genetic modifications as wheat, especially in such a short period of time.

Another research made by Anthony Fardet (2015), analyzes the link between gluten-related disorders and wheat processing and consumption evolution. In the paper, the author claims that drastic processing in wheat technology is able to render ultra-processed cereal-based foods more prone to trigger chronic inflammation. Concerning bread, intensive kneading and choosing wheat varieties with ‘high baking quality’ have rendered gluten less digestible, moving digestion from pancreatic to intestinal proteases. Moreover, the author claims that refining wheat flour removes fibre co-passenger which have potential anti-inflammatory property able to protect digestive epithelium.

The above mentioned “wheat varieties with high baking quality” is a term also worth being discussed. In baking, this is called flour fortification. Adding gluten makes the dough more elastic and easier to work with. This facilitates the bread baking industrialization process, increases productivity and reduces the needed level of expertise of labour. The result is a dough that is more elastic and easier to work with – suitable for industrialization, but with a higher gluten content and more harmful for human health.

Lastly, it must also be pointed out that gluten, as the dough-forming protein of wheat flour, is the key to the unique ability of wheat to suit the production of leavened products. The past two decades, gluten became a commodity used more and more frequently in different types of industries, not only bakery (Day, Augustin, Batey & Wrigley, 2006). The insoluble, viscoelastic, and cohesive properties of gluten are finding increasing use as a food ingredient to provide a range of functional properties at a more modest price than other alternatives such as milk and soy proteins. Gluten is added to artificial meat and fish products. “There is also a growing market for modified glutens for use in items that often would not normally contain gluten itself” (Wrigley, Corke, Seetharaman & Faubion, 2015).

The increase in the number of allergic people is, therefore, the result of several problems that accumulated. All these above-mentioned facts can definitely not be ignored. It is now clear that the increasing number of people suffering from gluten-sensitivity is related to the new practices adopted by big industries.

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