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Many times when the religious permisibility of alcohol is debated (especially in substances with small amounts of alcohol in it) people will claim that even bread has traces of alcohol. How valid is that claim? Is there a published survey of the amount of alcohol found in bread in general?

  • I had never heard this claim before, but before I pinged you for lack of notability, I tried to find a reference that claimed it, preferably without also providing an answer to the question (which would make it pointless to duplicate the question here). The best one I found: Some user called System Down made the claim in a comment yesterday on a StackExchange site! – Oddthinking Oct 14 '12 at 4:23
  • It was a claim I've heared before countless times in debates such as this. There's one in Cooking Stackexchange as well. cooking.stackexchange.com/questions/22237/… – System Down Oct 14 '12 at 5:02
  • Depends a lot on what you mean by "traces". There are a heck of a lot of molecules in everything, so there are probably a few molecules of most any relatively abundant substance in everything we eat. If you take 1L of vodka and pour it into the World Ocean, mix it uniformly, you will have added ~300 molecules of ethanol for every litre of the mixed-up World Ocean ... Calculation: 40% * 1.0L * 789g/L / 46g/mol = 6.86 mol * N.a = 4.1 * 10²³ molecules. Per 1.332 * 10⁹ km³ of water: 307.8 molecules/L. – RomanSt Jan 10 '13 at 19:22
  • @romkyns - Well that's the thing. There is no definition AFAIK in Islamic jurisprudence on what constitutes "traces". Current thinking is that if it has alcohol (period) it is not permissible to consume. – System Down Jan 10 '13 at 19:30
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Baker's yeast is capable of fermentation, so it can certainly produce alcohol.

In 1926 it was reported in the Canadian Medical Association Journal that bread can contain between 0.04 and 1.9% of alcohol. This is just a short report, not a full scientific paper.

In "Ethanol Content of Various Foods and Soft Drinks and their Potential for Interference with a Breath-Alcohol Test" the alcohol content of certain kinds of bread are reported. The highest alcohol content is found in Rosemary's onion bread with 0.98%, and lower values for other kinds of breads.

So, bread certainly contains at least traces of ethanol, and possibly even rather significant amounts.

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As an additional answer, some kinds of bread are treated with alcohol as a preservative. For example Italian pancarré (sliced sandwich bread) is very commonly laced with ethanol.

Ingredients

Type "0" wheat flour, water, lard (4.2%), dextrose (3.4%), salt, yeast, wheat malt extract. (Treated with ethyl alcohol).

Manufactured in a facility that also uses peanuts, tree nuts, milk, sesame, soy, eggs.

— translation of Pancarrè - Mulino Bianco

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