I've always found this odd... if you go to allrecipes.com and search for traditional white bread, you'll get this recipe:
Here is the ingredients list:
2 (.25 ounce) packages active dry yeast
3 tablespoons white sugar
2 1/2 cups warm water (110 degrees F/45 degrees C)
3 tablespoons lard, softened
1 tablespoon salt 6 1/2 cups bread flour
Now, when I look at the ingredients on bread I bought at the store, the list is:
Malted Barley Flour
High Fructose Corn Syrup
Salt Vegetable Oil (Canola or Soy)
Sodium Stearoyl Lactylate
Nonfat Dry Milk
Wow, that list is much longer! If I can make bread with 6 ingredients in my home, what are the 25 ingredients in store bought bread? Well lets go through them and find out.
Ok, Wheat Flour and Malted Barley Flour, I think I know what those are so I'm not even going to look them up.
Niacin is Vitamin B3, reduced iron is iron, thiamin mononitrate is vitimin B1, riboflavin is vitamin B2, folic acid is bitamin B9, and ascorbic acid is vitamin C. According to ask.com "In the US, processed flour must be enriched with thiamine mononitrate (along with niacin, ferrous iron, riboflavin, and folic acid) to replace that lost in processing. " The reason this is required is a portion of the nutrients in wheat are lost when processed as the bran (the outside of the wheat grain) is discarded.
Yeast is a fungi which makes the bread rise, water, salt, vegetable oil, high fructose corn syrup are all obvious enough.
Ammonium sulphate is a salt that is often used as fertilizer but in this case is used to feed the yeast.
Mono-Diglycerides are a fat used to keep the bread from getting stale and help other ingredients blend more evenly.
Sodium Stearoyl Lactylate or SSL is another emulsifier that gives the bread many of it's physical characteristics such as softness and bounciness.
Azodicarbonamide is a bleaching agent to make white bread whiter. The UK Health and Safety Executive has identified azodicarbonamide as a possible asthma cause. It also may heighten allergic food reactions. I don't know if I need this in my bread, it's not that important that it be so white.
Monocalcium phosphate is a leavening agent helping the bread to rise.
Distilled vinegar is self explanatory.
Dextrose is sugar.
Calcium propionate helps prevent mold and food spoilage.
Calcium Sulfate is a coagulant which I am assuming is also used to help the texture of the bread.
Last, Enzymes are proteins that speed up reactions.
So all in all none of the ingredients are as scary as I thought they might be. If I had the choice, I'd still rather have the first recipe for home made bread. For all the chemicals they put in commercial bread to help the look and texture, home baked bread always tastes best to me, but I imagine it doesn't have a long shelf life. Unlike fruits where I decided to try to get organic after finding out whats in them, baking my own bread is not something I have the time for so I will just accept the stuff they put in there, although I will try to bake a little more often as I enjoy the process and the product.
Here is an interesting page I found during my research that ranks the safety of most food additives: