When I moved to London my entire cooking repertoire consisted of salmon, corn (on or off the cob) and hot dogs. Since a girl can’t live on that alone, I also made a lot of sandwiches. But I kept having a problem with the bread. I’d buy bread from the market and two or three days later it would be moldy. At first I thought it was the supermarket. But even after switching from Marks & Spencer to Tesco to Sainsbury’s, I still ended up with moldy bread. I also noticed that the expiration dates weren’t 10 days out like back home. The British aren’t known for their cuisine, but I was really confused about how an entire country could mess up white bread. But I eventually realized that there wasn’t anything wrong with British bread. The problem was with American bread.
There are many food additives and preservatives that are allowed in the United States but banned in other countries. For example brominated vegetable oil, an additive that can be used to stop ingredient separation in beverages, has been banned in Europe for decades but is allowed in the United States and Canada. Potassium bromate, which is used to strengthen dough and speed up the baking process, is banned in the EU. Many synthetic food dyes that are banned around the world can be used in the US.
The good news is that companies are beginning to understand that customers want to know what’s in the food they eat. Kraft is planning to remove the synthetic dyes in its Macaroni & Cheese and replace them with dyes created using annatto, paprika and turmeric. Panera Bread publishes a “No No List,” which includes all of the artificial preservatives, sweeteners and flavor they plan to remove from their food by year end. Campbell Soup plans to eliminate artificial colors and flavors in nearly all of its North American food by August 2018. The company has also made investments in companies like Bolthouse Farms (carrots, smoothies, etc.) and is building its business in fresh food. It’s important that both customers and investors demand that companies simplify their ingredient lists.
The other good news is that I’ve since learned how to cook and no longer have to rely on hot dogs, corn or sliced bread. Now I can bake my own.