Bread improver

Bread improver

Bread improver has been a common ingredient in bread since the early 1950s, and is used to speed up bread production.


Before the 1950s, bread had been made virtually the same way since it was first discovered. Using sourdoughs, and sponge and dough methods, bread would take up to a day to produce. This was necessary so that certain chemical changes could happen in the bread. With the advent of plant bakeries mass-producing square (condensed) loaves of bread in the early 1950s, the production time for bread had to be accelerated. It was discovered that the addition of certain chemicals and enzymes to the bread could shorten the process to 2 hours instead of the usual 12 to 24 hours.


There are two main reasons for the use of bread improvers: to help produce gas, and to retain the gas inside the bread. This is done by including enzymes (such as amylase and protease) to act on the yeast and gluten.

When sour dough is made, a ferment dough is mixed first and left to ferment for up to 24 hours. Yeast contains limited amounts of amylase and protease enzymes, and this fermentation helps to increase the amounts of these naturally. Bread improvers aim to boost the amount of these enzymes artificially, thereby increasing the amount of fermentation early on in the bread production and cutting out the initial fermentation stage of doughs such as sour dough. The protease enzyme strengthens the gluten, thereby giving the bread a better structure and retaining more of the gas produced.


While the ingredients of improvers can vary largely depending on their use and the manufacturer, there are a few important ingredients found in all improvers:

*Ascorbic acid - used to strengthen the gluten
*Hydrochloride - gluten softening and clearing
*Sodium metabisulfate - gluten softening and clearing
*Ammonium chloride - food for yeast
*Phosphates - food for yeast
*Amylase - enzyme used to break down starch into simple sugars, thereby letting yeast ferment quickly
*Protease - enzyme used to strengthen the gluten

These ingredients are usually distributed in a soy flour filler, as the amounts of different ingredients can be as little as 120 mg per kg.

Health concerns

In the early 1990s, two ingredients commonly used in bread improvers were singled out as causing harm to those who ate the bread. Calcium propionate (Preservative 282) was linked to Attention-Deficit Disorder among children. Potassium bromate was also singled out as being potentially carcinogenic. Both of these additives have since been widely discontinued among manufactures. Many people are allergic to sodium metabisulfate and the whole class of preservatives frequently labeled as 220-229.

There are still health concerns regarding the use of improvers, especially the inclusion of enzymes in them. As enzymes are classed as "processing aids" they do not need to be included on the food label.


* [ A summary of different bread improvers]
* [ An article outlining the potassium bromate issue]

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