All grains contain peptides that mimic morphine or endogenous opioid substances. This is where I deal with my latest loaf craving. Get your bread-based exorphin fix here.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

17 Percent Rye and a Thought Experiment

The Bread
The excuse for writing today: a whole wheat and 17% rye sourdough bread made in the Tartine style.  As usual, 5% wheat germ is added to the mix.  This is one of my favourite breads lately.  This was a fine loaf.

Now that we're fed, lets let our minds wander.

My recent critique about Andrew Whitley's book, "Bread Matters" made me think.  Was my supposition true -- i.e. that mills and bakeries would use the cheapest sources of mandated flour enrichment ingredients?   I realized I didn't know.  I had never been placed in that position that mills or bakeries are in -- i.e., having to buy certified, mandated ingredients for their products.  What would I do if I were them?  Time for a thought experiment.

On Thought Experiments in General

Einstein liked to perform thought experiments.  Since there was no other way he could sit in his Swiss patent office and simultaneously travel the same speed as a photon, he imagined it.  And by fine-tuning his imagination with mathematics, he was able to come up with some pretty nifty truths. 

I'm not going to pretend that I'll rock your worldview with ideas the way his theory of relativity did.  I won't use math.  But nevertheless, lets take a trip together in our imagination, even as we sit here in our chairs, staring out and back at each other through the safe anonymity of the Internet.

This Thought Experiment
You love baking bread for friends and family, and have dreams of expanding your customer base and opening an artisan bakery.  Of course, you want your bread to be the best possible, and you want to keep your prices low and quality high to attract what you hope will be devoted customers.

Let's say you have already sourced a farmer's field of certified organic grain for your bakery.  You would like to label your bread and advertise it as "organic" but to do so, you would have to lock in a contract with the farmer to ensure supply (or grow it yourself).  You have to mill it in facilities that provide for the organic seal of approval (or do it yourself).  And you want to offer only whole grain breads. 

The problem with whole grain breads is that they do not rise as well as breads made with less bran.  To compete with those breads that rise well, and that consumers seem to like and expect and demand, you may decide to remove some of the bran.  After all, if you don't give the consumer what they want, you will go out of business.

Even if you were to make a miche like the one put out by the famous Poulaine bakery in France, which uses newly milled flour with 80% extraction, my understanding is that it must be enriched, by law.  

This represents a new dilemma for you.  Where do you source the enrichment ingredients?  You still want to label your bread 'organic' or 'natural:' what sort of guarantee do you have that your supplier of enrichment ingredients uses only organic or natural raw material?

Another alternative is to leave the bran and germ wholly intact in your flour, but to get the flour to perform like white flour, and build a loaf that customers expect, you could add some dough conditioners.  Once again, you would be looking for something sourced 'organic' or 'natural.'  What kind of supplier of dough conditioners would you need?

Finally you may find that you are having difficulty finding a suitable market nearby for your loaves, which have suddenly become more expensive for you to make.  You can reach a nearby city and sell them there, but you will have to transport the bread.  And you may need some sort of preservative to ensure that the bread isn't all stale when it arrives.  Again, you need to source something that can be labeled 'organic' or 'natural.'

Suddenly your bread is full of strange ingredients.  What happened to your determination to make quality bread?

All additives -- be they vitamin enrichment, dough conditioners, or preservatives -- are not natural. They may be derived from organic, natural resources, perhaps, but they are not natural.  When you use them, you are compromising.  You threaten the "whole grain" status of your bread, you threaten its "natural" claims, and you probably threaten its "organic" label.  

And yet, we tend to think of vitamins as benign, even necessary.  They are legally mandated for many foods, and have come to be accepted practice.  Maryann McCabe of the University of Rochester has examined our North American attitudes toward vitamin supplements in her anthropological work, "Vitamin Practices and Ideologies of Health and the Body."  She is mostly talking about over-the-counter vitamins; but the same attitudes prevail amongst us for the hidden additives that we've put in flour.

In short, we have been 'sold' on vitamins.  McCabe outlines the fascinating history of our attitudes regarding vitamin supplementation, and how vitamin suppliers have cashed in on our willingness to forego proof over wild claims for their use.

Sourcing the Ingredients
Lets return to our thought experiment, and one of the most important questions that arose: where do you go to buy vitamin enrichment for your organic flour?  Where do you go to buy other ingredients for your dough so you can make bread that the marketplace seems to demand?  

I began to research suppliers of enrichment products by taking a poll of the baking industry magazines (see endnotes, below), and to take a look at various trade organizations and their membership.  I didn't expect to find all suppliers, of course.  But it gave me a start, and a way to begin to learn about what's out there.  The magazine BakingBusiness, for example, points us to a page full of bulk enrichment suppliers, and articles within the magazine contain other clues for suppliers.  Other magazines (e.g. ModernBaking, BakingManagement) give comparable clues.  Similarly, Allied Trades of the Baking Industry (ATBI) gave me several different possible suppliers, and other trade organizations likewise pointed me in the right direction.

I quickly learned that there are no little guys in this fortification business.  A lot of mergers and acquisitions happened as recently as 2010.  Various manufacturers build their raw materials and their business from different sources: rice, beans, dairy, sugar beets, etc.  Many of the big players have gone on to purchase land (worldwide), to supply their agricultural raw materials*.  And most have ties to patented, proprietary processes and/or a vast pharmaceutical distribution network.  It became difficult to unravel which company owned which company.  Not all were manufacturers, many were simply building premixes of vitamins and other additives for Industry and bakeries.  There were too many to look at.  For example, while researching one company, I found them listed on this webpage, which gives a list of countless other "ingredient manufacturers"-- including vitamin manufacturers.  It rapidly became clear to me that I could not research them all in a timely way.

Certainly, there is a lot of money to be made in supplying legally mandated additives to food, flour and feedstock; or else, it takes a lot of money to get started in the business.  The profitable small companies are soon gobbled up by ever-larger companies.  And where there is a lot of money, there is always the possibility of corruption.  

And as soon as I had that thought, that is when I learned of the huge scandal in the vitamin industry.

Vitamin Cartel
The only reason I heard about this huge anti-trust case was because it broke records for how much in fines ($500 million for Roche alone) the companies and individuals involved had to pay for price-fixing.  It turns out vitamin manufacturers have been gouging consumers for years:

"The Vitamin cartel is the most pervasive and harmful criminal antitrust conspiracy ever uncovered," declared the then-Antitrust division chief Joel l. Klein.  "The criminal conduct of these companies hurt the pocketbook of virtually every American consumer -- anyone who took a vitamin, drank a glass of milk or had a bowl of cereal."  -- Gibeaut, J. (2004) "Antritrust American style: prosecutors fear their cartel-busting efforts will fizzle if US courts are opened to global price-fixing litigation" ABA Journal 90: April pp. 55- 

What was the crime?  Well, several vitamin-manufacturers got together to form a cartel which enabled them to fix prices, stop competition, and rake in huge profits -- so much money in fact that these world-record setting fines are hardly a deterrent.  How many manufacturers?  I have not seen all of them listed.  There may have been as few as 8 companies, or as many as 19 in the cartel.  After looking at several articles, I found this New York Times article (Barboza, D. (1999) "Tearing Down the Facade of 'Vitamins Inc.'" The New York times, Oct 10, 1999) and it had more vitamin manufacturing companies listed than any other (in the process of writing this up for the blog, though, I found lots more info here, and if you read no other link from this blog, this entry is it: Connor, J. (2006) The Great Global Vitamin Conspiracy 1989-1999, draft copy):

  • Roche (Switzerland)
    Holding company for Hoffman-La Roche (etc.), global pharma/health care supplier.
  • BASF (Germany)
    Global diversified chemical company, largest in the world, with ties to Monsanto.
  • Rhône-Poulenc (France)
    Global pharmaceutical and chemical company; mergers turned it into Sanofi, divestments into Rhodia, etc.
  • Takeda Chemical Industries (Japan)
    Global pharmaceutical co., among top 15 in world, largest in Japan and Asia.
  • Eisai Pharmaceutical (Japan)
    Global pharmaceutical co., among top 25 in the world
  • Daiichi Pharmaceutical (Japan)
    Global pharma co., 2nd largest in Japan.
  • Lonza A.G (Switzerland)
    Global pharma and biotech co.
  • Chinook (Canada)
    One time 'dominant' vitamin supplier (pharmaceuticals, feedstock, etc.) in Canada, with global assets.  They (ultimately -- not right away) cooperated with authorities for a reduced fine; are now 'Chinook Global'.  Recently fined for impairing water supply of their home base in Ontario. Balchem Corp then purchased their global choline assets.  To me, it looks like they were taken apart -- just like Rhône-Poulenc.
  • Ducoa (US)
    Once the number 3 premix vitamin supplier in the US, with ties to Dupont and ConAgra, now taken apart and assets sold to Nutreco of the Netherlands.  They copped a plea; could it be mere coincidence that they have been dismantled?
  • plus several other vitamin makers:
    • E. Merck - Is this the US Merck, or the German Merck?  Dunno. All under EMD.  Does chemicals, pharmaceuticals, bioscience, etc.
    • Hoeschst - Became Aventis after merger with Rhône-Poulenc; now subsidiary of Sanovi-Aventis
    • Solvay - Brussels.  Makers of sodium bicarb.
    • Akzo - They make paint, etc. but they are global chemical materials handlers.  Think salt,  think food stabilizers, and coatings.
    • Degussa - Chemicals business (pharma) purchased by Evonik in 2006.
    • Reilly - in 2006 they joined with Rutherford to become Reilly Industries Inc. Vitamin B3.
    • Nepera - in 2002 purchased by Rutherford.  Plant in NY had environmental issues.  Vit B3.
    • Mistui -- Huge conglomerate, with interests in everything, including minerals and grain.  These guys are serious.
    • UCB - Brussells, conglomerate. International biopharma.
    • Kongo - Japanese-based.  Into chemicals, nutriceuticals.  Global reach.  Vitamin B1 etc.
    • Sumitomo Japanese-based, global conglomerate, lots of mining and minerals, wide reach.  Huge, and getting bigger.
    • Tanabe - Global pharma corp.; merged with Mitsubishi 2007.

Roche is the #1 supplier of vitamins in the world; BASF is the #2 supplier.  Rhône was the whistle-blower in the anti-trust suit, and they got some immunity for their help in the lawsuit (see what happened to them?).  The total fines, to governments and in civil suits, amounts to over 3 billion dollars, for companies and individuals in the companies.

Supply of raw vitamin ingredients is easily a $1 billion dollar-a-year industry.  As one anti-trust lawyer put it, ''There's no reason to believe this won't happen again.''  Cartel members were raking in the cash: remember, they were supplying government mandated ingredients that had to go into products that are ubiquitous.  But, they got greedy, and began to enter the premix business.  They began to squeeze out the competition -- their customer base.

It was the middle men, the ones who purchased the raw vitamins, and combined them in premixes, who found that they could not buy vitamins from any supplier, at any price, or were being undercut by these newer players in the market.

In 1999, the cartel began to unravel and many of these problems finally came to light.

What will be the result of these fines?  I predict that litigation will drive further price-fixing and illegal activities underground.  Next time, rich crooks, getting richer on enrichment, will be better prepared, and more careful.  They'll be harder to catch.  They will be hiding in plain view, using umbrella corporations and octopus arms of industry, each paying lip service to their corporate ideals of sustainability, organic and natural sources, innovation, and people skills.  They will tell us what we want to hear, as they rebuild the public trust in their brands.  And just when we are complacent, they will gouge us again.  A few pennies from everybody, a government-mandated marketplace, and they cannot fail to rake in cash by the truckload.

How cynical I have become.

Meanwhile: Results of my Bread
I like this bread I have made.

There are no enrichments, dough improvers, or preservatives.  I can make this on my own.  I can give one of the loaves away.  I don't have to worry about trying to sell it to people who just don't get what I'm trying to do.  I don't have to comply with government regulations, since it is whole grain.

No lies.  No collusion.  No hidden ingredients or motives.

I have no interest in owning a bakery.  I have no interest in making white bread loaves, which seems to be what the market demands.  Bless you, if you think you can make a go of it and make only artisan whole grain breads in this marketplace, in this day and age. Bless you, if you have come up with an organic grain to use that isn't somehow owned by the biggest pharma or agra corps on the planet.  Bless you, if you try putting together a bakery and you can remain true to your original impulse to make quality bread.

Einstein probably had no desire to travel the speed of light, knowing it to be impossible.  But the thought experiment had a purpose -- it was a way to learn about the universe.  That is what this flight of fancy of mine is all about.

Notes to Myself
  • I began researching who supplies vitamin enrichment to bakeries one at a time, to try to get a handle on the industry.  ModernBaking's search function lead me to a few articles that mentioned some suppliers of the fortification of flour and dough.  I began to investigate them.  I couldn't possibly investigate them all in a timely way.  But this is what I discovered, in the order of my investigation:
    serves the baking industry with enrichment products, premixes, additives, etc.  They are owned by CSM (more on that later), and seem to be under CSM's North American Division, BSNA (Bakery Supplies North America), along with the BakeMark brand.  They are based in the US in Kansas, but they have 21 plants in the US and a couple in Canada.  Their "purpose," according to their mission statement, is "To improve the quality and sustainability of life."  I have to admit that it seems rather strange to hear the CEO say this with a straight face on an online video, but apparently they are consciously trying to build "sustainability" into their business practice by reducing waste, reducing costs, and sourcing ingredients in ecological ways.  Kudos.  Bakeries can buy their dough completely ready to bake.  Or you can build your own dough using their premix fortifications (the various NutrivanTM blends); or you can just add their fortifications to your own flour.

    is the North American division of Glanbia plc, an international corporation that has headquarters in Ireland.  They rose to dominance via Irish cheese and dairy products, and entered the nutritionals marketplace in 2003 after acquiring German-based Kortus Food Ingredients Services; in 2008 they bought Canadian Pizzey's Milling.  Without a hint of irony, "Glanbia" means "pure food" in Irish.  They style themselves as the "architects of nutrition".  They sell a number of premixes or they sell individual vitamins and amino acids for their bakery customers.

    is another nutriceutical corp owned by CSM.  Purac is essentially the leg of a multinational corp that grew out of the fermentation of sugar, who now defines their "food solutions" in these terms:  safety, shelf life, taste, salt reduction and mineral fortification.  They do a lot more than fortification, of course (including making plastics and biomedical fibers), but specifically for bakers, they have products for acidification, sensory enhancement, shelf life extension,
    sodium reductiontexture improvement, and label friendliness.  They are concerned about health too, or else, give lip service to it.  Unfortunately, their webpage links on mineral fortification are broken.  E.g. this link is currently down, so I can't find out any more information.  It looks to me like they have 5 premixes which mostly are geared to fortify dairy and other drinks with calcium and other minerals.  I assume that I can't find much info about Purac for bakeries because CSM sells bakeries through CSM Bakery Supplies North America, leaving the lactic acid wing of the business to Purac.

    from Crowley Louisiana, has a long family history of working with rice; since 2011, they have expanded into Ohio.  They have since branched out into the fortification business.  Apparently many of their nutrient fortifications are built from rice -- eg. Nutra-riceiron rice and Vit-a-rice .
    The standard fortifications can be encapsulated in a proprietary molecule-sized shell (think of a coated control-released aspirin, designed to get through your stomach before releasing its payload.  This is the same idea only much smaller).  Vitamins wrapped in the SupercoatTM are heat resistant, and survive your baking process.  The Wright Group provides a huge range of other proprietary products for bakers -- conditioners to improve loaf volume, texture, and dough stretchability; and emulsifiers and enzyme premixes to extend the shelf life of bread; and they will even custom-make enrichments to your own specs.  Because the premixes are proprietary formulas, you won't know any more than the consumer about what is in them (they tell you how to label your product).  But relax: the company is certified by every quality control stamp of approval from Kosher to FDA Bioterrorism free.  They take allergens seriously and they often guarantee their product to be GMO-Free.

    is the Central Sugar Company (CSM Bakery Supplies - North America), which got its start from the beet sugar industry and is now the largest supplier of bakery products and ingredients in the world. They grew through mergers and acquisitions.  They bought Unilever in 2000, and in 2010 Best Brands in the US.  They also own Caravan and Purac (see above).  According to Wikipedia, they have been under financial pressure for several years, and have now sold off their sugar divisions to become more profitable.  They also own HCBrill, BakeMark, Artisal, etc.

    Pharmachem Laboratories 
    ("we make ingredients work") is an international business headquartered out of Kearny, NJ.  It is a network of corporations that serve different industries (food, beverage, fragrance, etc.), but it all grew out of the purchase of the single Stanley Blackman lab, which supplied nutritionals ("who bought it?" I asked, but found no answer.  The current CEO is David Holmes -- but maybe not the same D.Holmes, businessman, who has a wiki.  Pharmachem's David Holmes seems to be slightly web invisible).  Pharmachem holds patents for the manufacture of glycoproteins, and phaseolamin (Phase 2 white bean extract), and they own several brands of neutraceutical blends. They've expanded quickly since 1979.  Along the way they have acquired or purchased the use of the NovasomeTM microvesicle encapsulation process, to deliver payloads of vitamins, drugs, etc. to the spot in the body or food product where they are intended to go.  They claim they can deliver enrichment that can be labelled "organic" and "natural," and they are interested in sustainability and giving back. They can supply a wide range of ingredients to bakers.

    SunOpta Ingredients Group
    seems to focus on fiber additives, but their byword is "sustainable" and their method is "continuous improvement."  They have access to (and partially own) Opta mineral resources (steel, magnesium, etc.), and the Mascoma Biofuels.  They've grown rapidly by ensuring organic and natural sources; they grow their own proprietary soybeans (I assume they are organic), they also use corn and sunflowers for their ingredients.  They have a lot of ingredients that bakers can use -- but I don't think they sell the raw vitamins to add to flour, in the thought experiment I described.

    I stopped at this point in my research because I was getting bogged down in trying to find out who manufactured the actual vitamins that enrich flour, and was discovering more and more companies that seemed to mostly just add vitamins to premixes for sale to industry and bakeries.  And I found it difficult to unravel which companies owned other companies.  It was becoming clear that various manufacturers built their raw materials and their business from different sources: rice, beans, dairy, sugar beets.  And most had ties to patented, proprietary processes and/or vast pharmaceutical distribution.  And it was at this point too, that I first learned of the vitamin cartel, so my interest shifted.

    Had I continued, I would have looked at a few more of these:

    • AMF Bakery Systems (Richmond VG) - mostly equipment manufacturing for highspeed bakeries; I don't see vitamins.
    • BCW Food Products, Inc. (Dallas TX) - based on what I can see of their Product line  I don't think this company is involved in vitamin and mineral fortification, but you can get other dough additives here.

    There are more listed here at the Biscuit and Cracker Manufacturing Assoc (BCMA) member list; and the Allied Trades of the Baking Industry (ATBI) website, and the Grain Foods Foundation webpage.  There seem to be a lot of these bakery trade organizations.  I suppose if you want to keep abreast of what your competitors are up to (or if you want the skinny on the next cartel that is going to form), you want to have lots of contacts, lots of friends and join lots of trade organizations...

  • * Who is buying up land will be the next thing that has to be researched.  Who owns the fields that grow our food?

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