Bread. It’s as old as civilization, and so fundamental to our diets that it’s long been used as a synonym for food itself – reflected in such sayings as “without bread all is misery,” by British journalist William Cobbett, or the Russian proverb “with a piece of bread in your hand you’ll find paradise under a pine tree.”
Real bread enthusiasts, of course, usually bake their own, which has been made a lot easier by the availability of bread machines. Or if they don’t have time, they probably opt for special artisan breads offered by private or in-store bakeries.
But for most consumers, the bread of choice is probably one of those sliced and packaged loaves found in the bread aisles of supermarkets. So it’s hardly surprising that the leading manufacturers of such products attempt to appeal to the traditional sense of comfort that bread conveys by making them look and sound as homespun and natural as possible.
Take Pepperidge Farm “Farmhouse” breads. “The bakers at Pepperidge Farm have been making great tasting breads for over 70 years…breads baked with care, using the perfect combination of wholesome, flavorful ingredients,” reads the copy on the package, which also includes the assurance that it’s American Heart Association Certified and meets the organizations “criteria for heart healthy food.”
But how “wholesome” and “heart healthy” can a product be that contains high fructose corn syrup, the cheap laboratory sweetener that various studies at leading universities have linked to obesity, diabetes, nonalcoholic fatty liver disease … and, yes, heart disease? (For example, a University of California at Davis study which examined 48 adults between the ages of 18 and 40 and found that those who consumed high fructose corn syrup for two weeks as 25 percent of their daily calorie requirement had “increased blood levels of cholesterol and triglycerides, which have been shown to be indicators of increased risk for heart disease.”)
And those aren’t the only Pepperidge Farm bread products with HFCS. It can also be found in the company’s “Swirl” breads and in its “Bakery Classics” 100% Whole Wheat Hamburger Rolls that are described as “timeless and without pretense” and that “stand for quality with premium ingredients perfectly orchestrated with a baker’s touch.”
But oddly enough, if you look at the Pepperidge Farm Whole Grain Oatmeal Bread, displayed prominently on the package is the message that it provides “100% of your day’s worth of whole grain with No High Fructose Corn Syrup.”
It would appear, then, that this company is well aware that a large and growing number of consumers are rejecting any products with HFCS, but hedging its bets in deciding whether to drop it – and advertise the fact – or allow it to quietly remain as a listed ingredient.
Similar ambiguity can be seen when one examines the packaged breads put out by Stroehmann, another commercial baking company that tries to give off a homey image. The message on it’s “Dutch Country” 100% Whole Wheat, for example, while talking about how it compares to other foods in vitamins and calcium and proudly proclaiming that “Whole wheat is our first ingredient,” never mentions that high fructose corn syrup is their third. On the other hand, Stroehmann Honey Wheat bread lets you know right up front that it’s “made with real honey and NO high fructose corn syrup.”
Of the three bread brands that make a point of appealing to consumers looking for a relatively inexpensive “natural” appearing bread, the Arnold Baking Co. is the one that most deserves the award for sincerity – and consistency, in that every one of its products makes a point of having “no high fructose corn syrup.
We’ve said it before, and we’ll keep saying it again – if you wish to avoid HFCS (and a whole bunch of other atrocious additives), you often can’t depend on the brand. You need to look carefully at the ingredients label before you buy bread or any other form of processed food.