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While browsing Facebook I came across a post on eDidYouKnow,

Hair in bread

Is this something that actually happens on a regular basis or is it just one of possible ways to create L-cysteine?

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    L-Cystein is an amino acid. Found in your cells and mine. Probably in your hair and mine, too. And in every plant and animal. So I imagine there are cheaper ways to get it than human hair.
    – GEdgar
    Jun 7, 2015 at 22:56
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    @Gedgar: Is that an answer?
    – Oddthinking
    Jun 8, 2015 at 0:07
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    Is Wikipedia relevant here ? "The majority of L-cysteine for is obtained industrially by hydrolysis of human hair, poultry feathers, or hog hair, with human hair being the preferred method due to its efficiency in producing large quantities of L-cysteine." (en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cysteine)
    – user21930
    Jun 8, 2015 at 7:03
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    This definitely happens. Here is a documentary from feb 2014 illustrating the practice (you probably can't understand what they say because it's in Dutch). It does not answer the question how common the practice is, it only shows how it's done. Some food industry representatives deny (by phone) that human-derived cysteine is used in the European Union, because it's forbidden.
    – user22865
    Jun 8, 2015 at 11:49
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    I am not convinced that "a picture I found on Facebook" constitutes a notable claim. Jun 8, 2015 at 16:17

1 Answer 1

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Yes and no, if you are making your own Sourdough bread then I would say no, as you have created the starter and the yeast is all natural.

However if you are buying shop bought bread then one of the ingredients to extend the shelf life of the bread is L-cysteine.

L-cysteine is/can be derived from human hair(mostly from barbers in china apparently), and please note it is not only be bread that L-cysteine is added too.

http://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/wordofmouth/2013/may/13/10-gross-ingredients-food-horsemeat-scandal

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    The only reason people are so fussy about these things is lack of basic biology/chemistry knowledge. It's not like they are putting hair in bread, they are purifying L-cysteine from hair. It would be exactly the same thing if it were purified from bacteria or from tree bark or from raspberries or fish or synthesized in a lab, and so on... PS: "store-bought" is a bit too vague: a proper bakery does not add anything else other than water, yeast and flour (which, obviously contain cystein).
    – nico
    Jun 8, 2015 at 15:24
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    @nico: Depends on you bakery, and the particular variety of bread you want. I almost always add sugar/honey, butter/oil, and a dash of salt. Then there are various herbs, cheeses, grains, spices...
    – jamesqf
    Jun 8, 2015 at 18:26
  • @jamesqf sure, what I meant is that a proper bakery does not generally add preservatives
    – nico
    Jun 8, 2015 at 18:47
  • @nico: Yeah, mine does not remain uneaten long enough to need them :-)
    – jamesqf
    Jun 9, 2015 at 0:21
  • @nico While I won't worry too much about it, very few purification processes are perfect, and it is highly unlikely that L-cysteine derived from hair is completely chemically identical to the synthetic variant, due to the presence of impurities that are not completely removed.
    – March Ho
    Jun 9, 2015 at 17:57

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