5 Harmful Additives in Bread

Human hair, chicken feathers, and high-fructose corn syrup—if you eat packaged bread from the supermarket, these ingredients have likely been in it. In fact, plenty of packaged breads sold in the United States contain ingredients that are actually banned in lots of other parts of the world. Here are five ingredients to look for at the store…and five reasons to start making your own bread or visiting the local bakery instead:


1. L-cysteine

L-cysteine is a softening agent often added to bread and other baked goods in order to speed up industrial processing. And though it’s sometimes made in a lab, most of it actually comes from a natural source. Sounds good, right? Not if that natural source is human hair, chicken feathers, and cow horns, dissolved in acid before the L-cysteine is isolated and added to your bread.


2. Potassium bromate

Potassium bromate lessens baking time and strengthens dough, which big companies love because they can save money. But it’s not so great when it comes to eating it—it’s been linked to thyroid and kidney cancer, leading many countries to ban it completely, including the EU, Brazil, Peru, South Korea, and China.


3. Refined grains

Refined grains don’t sound that scary, but because they’re missing all the nutrients that whole grains contain, they’re actually pretty bad for you. Quickly broken down into simple sugars, refined grains can cause blood-sugar level spikes. They’ve also been shown to make us more vulnerable to insulin resistance and high blood pressure, to increase our risk of a heart attack by 30 percent. Look out for major culprits like white bread and rolls, and don’t be fooled by ingredient like “enriched wheat flour”—it’s not synonymous with whole grain.


4. Azodicarbonamide

This hard-to-pronounce additive enhances the texture of soft breads, and you’ll often find it in hamburger buns at fast food joints in the United States. But if you add it to food in Singapore, you’ll face up to 15 years in prison. How come? It’s been shown to interfere with respiratory health, causing asthma and allergic reactions in some people.


5. High fructose corn syrup

It adds that toasty brown color to bread and helps dough rise—and manufacturers love it because it’s the cheapest sugar. Too bad that health professionals point to it as a contributor to the American obesity epidemic. Excess consumption of high fructose corn syrup has been associated with hypertension, metabolic syndrome, non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, and more.


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Elaine W
Elaine Wabout a month ago


Peggy B
Peggy Babout a month ago


Loesje vB
Loesje Najoan3 years ago

The security control of food and beverage must know this.

Sheila M.
Sheila M4 years ago

I grew up in San Franciso and everyday someone would stop at the local store and pick up a loaf of sour dough french bread. This was in the days before supermarkets and the bread woud be delivered fresh slipped into a paper bag. By the early 60's supermarkets were springing up and there were actually rows filled with this soft white stuff that was mistaken for bread. 20 years ago I retired and moved to Maine when my second grandson was born and for at least 5 years I could not find any real bread however eventually real sourdough and crusty wholegrain breads eventually began to appear. Our local farmers market has a nice selection now. However I was so "starved for real bread two years ago I ordered some real SanFrancisco Dough Bread off line for the holidays and my daughter and son in-law who are west coast transplants were over joyed as nothing tastes the same as the real thing. I am still in Maine, now a great grandMother and no matter what I say my grandsons still eat the soft mush that people call bread here however my daughter and son in-law are doing their best to make sure their grandson eats crusty whole grain breads as much as possible. Great article!

Yuliya Dalbunova
Yuliya Dalbunova4 years ago

Horrible list! Thanks for sharing!

Debs Keane
dee Keane4 years ago

Interesting read, ty

Valerie A.
Valerie A4 years ago


Elena T.
Elena Poensgen4 years ago

Thank you :)

Karen S.
Karen S4 years ago

Thanks for info.

Alison A.
Alison A4 years ago

Thanks for posting.