What an interesting story told here about the history of white bread, and how it's been the subject of much condemnation well before my lifetime. Some extracts:
As Aaron Bobrow-Strain makes clear in his epically well-researched White Bread, our culture’s tendency to focus what we as individuals put in our mouths often goes along with classism and xenophobia. Just as whole wheat acolytes pity white-trash white-bread eaters, and gluten-free converts showcase their discipline through vegetables and lean proteins, so, too, did turn-of- the-century crusaders attempt to spread the gospel of good food to less enlightened masses.
White bread, untouched by human hands and carefully wrapped for hygienic transport, became a symbol of purity....Between 1890 and 1930, Bobrow-Strain writes, Americans transitioned almost completely from homemade bread to store bought bread—and specifically to bread made in large factories. Hygiene fears were a major reason. The emerging understanding of germ science led pure food crusaders to preach against the dangers of mother’s kitchen, which couldn’t hope to achieve the level of cleanliness of a large bread factory, nor the heat necessary to kill the “yeast germs.” “You and your little oven cannot compete,” one newspaper article informed women after the turn of the century. Scientists and food reformers also warned against mom-and-pop bakeries, whose reputation for substituting cheap substances like chalk and alum was further undermined by the presence of so many swarthy immigrant workers, whose hygiene was considered suspect.
But during the '20s and '30s, the nation was gripped by panic over white bread. A wave of experts with questionable pedigrees began warning about white bread’s nutritional content, harkening back to the teachings of 19th-century ascetic Sylvester Graham, who believed that refining wheat undermined God’s intent. (Graham had a number of interesting theories, including that consumption of meat, seasonings and rich foods lead to rampant masturbation.)
Dietician and radio show host Alfred W. McCann claimed that 400,000 children a year were sent to “little graves” because they were raised on white bread. Food pundits said that white bread could cause blindness and disfigurement. A 1912 article in a journal called “Life and Health” made the dubious claim that in countries where there was no white bread, there was no cancer. Bobrow-Strain writes that white bread was implicated in a slew of illnesses including “diabetes, criminal delinquency, tuberculosis … rheumatism, liver disease, kidney failure …” White bread’s fortunes sunk, and bakers, who preferred white flour in part because it was cheaper to mill and could be stored longer, were beside themselves.
The article goes on to explain that the food industry got pro-active, and by the 1940's, adding vitamins was one way they successfully fought against the anti-white cranks. (Actually, as a child, I don't recall seeing any brand of bread advertising its additives, like they do now. Maybe Australia never succumbed to fear of white bread?)
All very interesting.