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Muffins baked using synthetic preservatives don’t last longer, may make you sick: Studies

Mumbai city news: Muffins with natural preservatives last just as long as those baked using calcium propionate and potassium sorbate

mumbai Updated: Jun 26, 2017 14:52 IST
Snehal Fernandes
Snehal Fernandes
Hindustan Times
Mumbai city news,Muffins,Mumbai bakeries
Many Indian households bake muffins using synthetic preservatives, revealed the study.(HT File Photo)

Walk into a bakery, and chances are you won’t leave without savouring a muffin or taking some home. But these muffins, which are baked using synthetic preservatives to prevent fungi or mould growth and increase their shelf life, may have short and long-term impacts on health, say international studies.

Now, food scientists and technologists from the Central Food Technological Research Institute, Mysore, have shown that muffins with natural preservatives — lemon grass and clove-cinnamon — which work as anti-fungi and anti-moulding agents - are “on par” with those baked using calcium propionate and potassium sorbate. Both last for 24 days.

“Over the past few years, muffins and other bakery products have become popular among children and adults alike, and are found in almost every bakery and cake shop. Many Indian households also bake muffins using synthetic preservatives,” said Dr P Prabhasankar, principal scientist, department of flour milling, baking and confectionery.

“However, synthetic preservatives, when used in excess, have side effects. When used above permissible limits, they can cause irreparable damage,” he said.

Previous studies have shown that excess calcium propionate can lead to an upset stomach and gastric problems since it damages the stomach and intestinal lining, and causes restlessness in children. Similarly, potassium sorbate, beyond permissible limits, damages white blood cells, and can cause cancer, skin allergy and vomiting.

“We can’t stop anyone from eating bakery and dairy products. At the same time, bakeries can’t keep churning out fresh products. These products thus need to be synthetically preserved using anti-moulding agents,” said Prabhasankar.

The four-member team chose lemon grass and clove-cinnamon as natural preservatives as they contain an essential oil compound called eugenol, which is a flavouring and anti-moulding agent. Studies have shown that lemon grass is effective in retarding mould growth, and spices such as clove and cinnamon have good antioxidant and antimicrobial properties.

Researchers baked muffins without preservatives, with synthetic preservatives and with natural preservatives. Their findings showed visible mould spores after 24 days of storing muffins with both synthetic and natural preservatives as compared to 16 days without any preservatives. In addition, water absorption — which affects the taste and texture of the muffin — increased with the increase in the quantity of lemon grass and cinnamon-clove resulting in better dough development.

“When baking any product, water has to be absorbed with flour and other ingredients. When the flour absorbs more moisture, the product will turn out to be better in terms of quality and taste,” said Prabhasankar. “In the future, lemon grass and cinnamon-clove can be used in bakery products,” he said.

Though widely available, lemon grass or cinnamon-clove are expensive compared to synthetic preservatives. The taste of lemon grass may be palatable to everyone, as against the tasteless calcium propionate and potassium sorbate preservatives, said researchers.

First Published: Jun 26, 2017 14:52 IST