A great many of us enjoy the Great British Bake Off.

Mary Berry and Paul Hollywood are well known public figures with celebrity status, and the program has done much to popularize baking with people up and down the country. In fact not just inside the British Isles. The BBC exports the program around the world. Mary with her wonderful cakes and pies and pastries and Paul who is a master bread baker. Who could

And not just Mary and Paul.

There are lots of other programs, with James Martin doing Saturday in my Kitchen, the stratospheric Masterchef, Jamie Oliver and Gordon Ramsay showing their different takes on life in the restaurant kitchen and the family home, not to mention the Hairy Bikers travelling around the world sampling world cuisine.

Most cakes, breads and pastries start with flour, white flour to be precise. Easily available, cheap, light and fluffy powder, versatile, adaptable and multi-purposed. There are different strengths and types, each more suited to a specific purpose depending on the type of wheat it’s produced from. But all white, refined and standardized to be consistent from packet to packet, brand to brand so our cakes and pancakes are mouthwatering, our pies and pastries delicious and filling, our sauces smooth and creamy.

And look good.

That beautiful white flour so appreciated in our modern, western way of modern life as one of the best comforts and most pleasantly useful, versatile kitchen ingredients has a deadly secret.

Those of us who count calories and watch our weight might be shocked to know there is more.
In the USA, 140 million tons of white flour is produced DAILY according to the North American Millers Association. That’s a lot of flour.

To speed up the process of preparing the flour for sale, it is treated with chlorine gas which whitens it. It also produces a chemical called alloxan when the chlorine reacts with proteins in the flour. Alloxan doesn’t have to be declared on the food labels as an ingredient because it’s not been added to the flour.

What’s the big deal?

Alloxan is toxic to humans and destroys the cells in the pancreas which produce insulin. Diabetes is the result.

This is so well known and reliable that research scientists feed alloxan to rats and laboratory animals to produce diabetic animals to use for experimental research.

Something to think about next time you order a Danish pastry with your cappuccino for breakfast. Or pop out to buy a bag of bleached white flour for a spot of healthy home baking.