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British Food Journal Volume 42 Issue 12 1940

British Food Journal

ISSN: 0007-070X

Publication date: 1 December 1940


We have on many occasions drawn attention to the all too prevalent fallacy of judging the nutritive and dietetic value of foods solely by their chemical composition without regard to the digestibility of the foods, and to the more or less prevalent idiosyncrasies of the public in connection with such foods. In an excellent article in The Times, Sir Wyndham Dunstan observes that “it has to be remembered that, however desirable the constituents of a given material may seem, in order to be of real value that material must be digestible— capable of assimilation within the body. In this matter of digestion people differ greatly and there must be latitude in the choice of food. While consumption in quantity of uncooked green and other vegetables is widely advocated, many are unable easily to digest some vegetables unless cooked, and not always then except in very moderate amount. Many other factors have to be taken into account in planning a common dietary. There are different tastes and preferences. The appeal a particular food makes to the individual and the appetite it stimulates are important points. The psychological factor plays a significant part and must be met by providing as wide a selection of palatable food as possible. These are a few truisms often overlooked.” With regard to the kind of bread we should eat and ought to be made to eat in war‐time, the writer observes that “there is unanimity in regarding a wholemeal bread (not always the same thing as “brown” bread) as that which should be generally eaten and readily procured. This is not at present the rule. Should it be made so? The constituents of wholemeal bread supply not only nourishment for the body but protection against ill‐health. Some of the more valuable constituents are absent from the white bread, so long the staple of this country, because they have been removed in the conversion of the wheat into white flour, which is now often further whitened and further deteriorated by a chemical bleaching agent. White bread is therefore a sophisticated and inferior food to which we have grown so accustomed that its use has become an ingrained habit. The obvious course in the circumstances, especially in war‐time, would be to compel the use of wholemeal bread and prohibit white bread. But, though such a course would be for the good of the nation, a sudden change of the kind, however beneficial, is bound to be inconvenient, if not distasteful, to many who are attached to white bread, and particularly to those who do not, or cannot, understand the need for change. There are people who say they can digest white bread more easily than “brown.” Thus it happens that the Ministry of Food, advised by numerous experts and confronted with numerous objectors, is apparently in favour of the evasive alternative of restoring artificially to white bread one at least of the valuable constituents it has lost in manufacture without impairing its whiteness. At first it was intended to do this by adding to white flour suitable quantities of two chemically prepared substances, one a vitamin and the other a calcium compound. Recently the synthetic vitamin only has been indicated as the proposed addition. This seems a clumsy and unnecessary concession to sentiment, involving considerable expenditure. It has been widely critised and regarded as “faking” bread. An eminent physician, Sir Ernest Graham Little, while condemning the proposal on general grounds, also questions its efficacy. Why first remove a natural constituent of wheat in making flour and then afterwards, at a cost, add to the flour this constituent artificially manufactured: He presents a convincing case for the use of wholemeal bread. With regard to the argument that some people dislike wholemeal bread and find it less easy to digest, it may be doubted whether many of them have eaten true wholemeal. “Brown” breads, including bread made with coarse ground wheat or bran and also several varieties of “brown” bread sold under largely advertised names, are almost everywhere procurable at higher prices than white bread. Fine wholemeal bread as well as flour is less easy to find. Large numbers of people eat very little bread, and it is therefore of small importance to them whether it is wholemeal or white. They consume far less than the three‐quarters of a pound a day included in Sir William Bragg's basal diet and make up for it with other foods which they can afford to buy. A really nutritious bread chiefly concerns the poorer classes, who eat much more bread than those better off. For the poor the substitution of wholemeal bread for white is a matter of far‐reaching importance. It has been stated that in many places wholemeal is dearer than white, but inquiries in the trade suggest that this is not as it should be, apart from “fancy” brown breads. As has been pointed out, the Ministry of Food, confronted with alternatives, apparently favour the introduction of “faked” white bread rather than the adoption of wholemeal. There is, however, a medium course. In this country we have come to recognise the “inevitability of gradualness,” and the medium course would meet present needs and might lead to the voluntary adoption of all that is desired.— It has been found that the admixture with fine ground wholemeal flour of about 10 per cent. of white flour makes a light coloured, very palatable, and digestible bread of good texture. Its nutritive value is very little less than that of full wholemeal bread; in fact a rather larger proportion of white flour would be permissible. The mixed flour is quite satisfactory for rolls, scones and cakes.” If an admixture of the kind suggested would overcome the prejudice against wholemeal bread and render it palatable to those people who dislike the ordinary wholemeal bread, there would seem to be a very strong case for adopting such a suggestion rather than first to remove a natural constituent of wheat and subsequently, at a cost, artificially add to the flour the constituent which has been removed in the manufacture of the flour.


(1940), "British Food Journal Volume 42 Issue 12 1940", British Food Journal, Vol. 42 No. 12, pp. 111-120.




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