“Eating sandwiches can be a healthy thing”– Said no one ever.
Why is that? Well because sandwich is made of things that (usually) just can’t be healthy at all. Bread is bad for you, while all those artificial sauces aren’t going to help either.
But is there a way to make your bread (and your sandwich) healthier?
- Store-bought bread VS homemade bread – are there any differences?
- Fresh, local ingredients VS imported ingredients – again, does it matter?
This article will focus on one particular additive that can be found in a store-bought bread: Calcium Propionate also known as “preservative 282” or E282.
Calcium Propionate serves as preservative, decreasing the rate of mold development and preventing bacterial spoilage. Preservatives are only one of many food additives that are used in “industrial” bread making. For more info about bread additives see this article.
90% of sandwiches people eat are either premade or made of store-bought bread – So basically we are all consuming these synthetic ingredients on regular basis. But do we realize the effect of their consumption?
In this article, we will review ONE ingredient, which is included in this type of bread. A popular ingredient that is widely used in bread manufacturing (yes, manufacturing, not baking!). This ingredient can be found under the name Calcium Propionate, or one of its synonyms: Calcium propanoate, Propanoic acid, Calcium salt …
* Note that the conclusions and our findings in this article may not apply to every single store-bought bread. But they do apply to all breads and baked goods that include Calcium Propionate as part of its ingredients.
The key questions we’d like to get to the bottom of are:
- Are there any health risks related to consuming store-bought bread?
- Are preservatives bad for your health, more specifically, is Calcium Propionate bad for you?
- Are there any advantages if a person sticks to homemade bread?
Now here are a few facts before we start:
- If you bought a bread, buns, or a toast, from a store that doesn’t bake bread there’s almost zero possibility that the bread you just bought doesn’t contain preservatives.
- A very popular (and most widely used) among the range of preservatives is a synthetic ingredient (lab made) named Calcium Propionate.
- We don’t know this yet, but let’s find out if we can find anything “bad” about this synthetic ingredient, because it may just as well be harmless.
Homemade bread VS commercial store-bought bread: What are the key differences
When we think of bread, which ingredients pop to mind? A certain type of flour (wheat, spelt, buckwheat, corn, etc.), yeast, water and salt. So, there are basically 4 of total ingredients needed to make a bread.
But what if there are logistics involved. What if you get a huge order, to deliver your bread to some distant city, to the supermarket shelf, where thousands of customers will be able to get a hold of it? There’s transport involved, some inventory time, etc. And you’re bread may be expired by the time it reaches the store shelf.
Another challenge you have is the standardization – How to make every bread the same, how to make sure one isn’t any different from the other, how to be “consistent” in your production, always assuring the same taste and quality of the baked goods you are shipping to your clients (supermarket stores).
“Key difference between commercially distributed, store-bought bread VS fresh, homemade bread are the ingredients, where your typical homemade bread will never include synthetic preservatives such as E282 (Calcium Propionate), which is widely used in food industry.”
With these challenges you will probably have to add something to your bread besides those 4 basic ingredients. For example:
- Emulsifiers – E.g. Sodium stearoyl-2-lactylate (SSL) – Crumb softeners and dough conditioners.
- Preservatives – E.g. Calcium Propionate (E282)- Preventing bread from going bad, securing quality and prolonging shelf-life.
- Oxidants and reductants – E.g. Ascorbic acid (E300) – Better volume, shape, finer and more uniform texture of the final product.
These additives can be found in your typical store-bought bread. They assure the quality of the product. However, are they healthy for a person to eat? I have nothing against chemistry or pharmaceuticals at all, but my logic has always been that people should stay loyal to natural when it comes to food. Fresh, local, and seasonal should be healthier than foreign, imported stuff. But that’s just me. Let’s stick to the facts and research stuff.
The main difference between homemade bread and store-bought bread is therefore the ingredients. While homemade bread includes only basic inputs (flour, yeast, water, salt), the store-bought bread includes several synthetic ingredients. Whether that is good or bad, we have yet to determine.
E282 bread preservative: What studies and research say about Calcium Propionate
You know there are several blogs that talk about how you’re going to poison yourself etc. solely on presumptions and individual opinion. We are not one of them. We base our findings on facts. And in this review of Calcium Propionate, a preservative ingredient found in breads, there’s no difference. So, let’s see what science says.
Source no.1: pubchem.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov 
Pubchem is a National Library of Medicine and National Center for Biotechnology Information, providing data on chemical compounds. As we can see from the pictograms, Calcium Propionate is in-fact hazardous according to Pubchem.
Of course many may argue about the fact, that the volume of this ingredient in bread is less than 1% (usually around 0.1-0.4%), therefore it shouldn’t be dangerous in such low quantities. Perhaps that’s correct, however, we will not discuss this now.
- The fact is that Calcium Propionate is widely used preservative in bread.
- And the fact is that Pubchem identifies Calcium Propionate as (i) Corrosive, and (ii) Acute Toxic.
Now draw your own conclusion whether this is good or bad, or irrelevant when it comes to the health of consumers. So should you stay away from store-bought breads with this synthetic ingredient? You decide.
Source no. 2: ams.usda.gov 
At AMS (Agricultural Marketing Service) we can find a document, describing toxicological properties of Calcium Propionate. This ingredient is identified as a synthetic preservative, which may act as a skin, eye or respiratory irritant.
While they do also state that: “It’s very unlikely to produce any toxicity except in enormous doses.”
Source no. 3: choice.com.au 
Again we can see “irritation”, among other hazards, being mentioned. Study that expressed concerns about Calcium Propionate is from 2002. Study identified E282 as being hazardous to children. In this study children ate bread containing Calcium Propionate on daily basis.
As we can see the main symptoms were irritability, restlessness, inattention and sleep disturbance.
However, many doctors and scientists argue, that anti-preservative campaign is completely overblown, and that 5% of entire population is allergic to something, whether it’s something synthetic or natural.
Source no. 4: pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov 
2019 study associated Calcium Propionate with insulin resistance and weight gain.
Actually, when you think about it, it’s nothing new – daily bread consumers tend to have weight problems. There’s also tons of research available linking bread to diabetes.
My grandma always told me: “You shouldn’t eat too much bread, it’s not healthy!” – Perhaps she was referring to “commercial breads”?
Even thought FDA classifies Calcium Propionate as GRAS (Generally Recognized As Safe), there are still number of studies that find it hazardous in some ways. Especially in long-term, if consumption is frequent and periodic.
What we found is that Calcium Propionate is suspected to be:
- possibly bad for children;
- linked to weight gain / obesity;
- increased blood sugar levels, increased insulin production and possible development of insulin resistance;
- possible development of allergies and allergic reactions;
- skin irritation reported by employees dealing with the substance;
- irritation of mucous membranes in the digestive system.
Another problem (or let’s call it a “doubt”) I have here, is the fact that the use of 282 preservative is fairly young. Food industry began using it around 1990s. Before that, people ate bread as it is. And whether the inclusion of synthetic preservatives is harmful to people, we yet can not know and only future will show.
So, what’s next? What to do about it?
Well hard to do anything about something that is so global. You will not change the industry, and corporations will still use ingredients that aren’t necessarily healthy, but do in-fact make their business more profitable.
I am not saying that modern food, infused with synthetic ingredients, is bad… I’m just saying there’s not enough evidence yet to be sure of anything, and to see how such actions will effect human kind, and natural resources (pollution, etc) in future.
Anyway. I would like to share my personal experience with this matter:
Whenever me (or my wife) makes homemade bread from basic ingredients (we usually use locally produced spelt flour, which we get from a mill nearby), I feel better (energy-wise), compared to those times that I eat basic bread that I purchased in the supermarket. Whenever I eat store-bought bread, my energy levels decreases and I also tend to get sleepy.
I also have 2 colleagues of mine who loved to eat fast food (for years), and they somehow destroyed their pancreas function over the years. So I think those insulin resistance studies are on-point.
There are just too many “observational” signs, too many life experiences, which force me to believe that commercial bread is better to be avoided. And that the effort of getting freshly baked bread, or making your own bread, is totally worth it. Not only because it’s healthier, but also because you learn new things, you have fun during the process, and it definitely tastes better.
By making homemade bread, you are helping farmers to stay in business, instead giving your share to multi-million corporations.
- Buy local ingredients.
- Try to get the ingredients from the source (farmers).
- Stay away from imported stuff.
And if you’re thinking of going solo, making the most delicious breads and baked goods, do not miss this article where you can find tons of delicious low-carb bread recipes.
Thanks! see you around.