There is often a lot of confusion as to whether flour, specifically white wheat flour, is safe for people on a benzoate & cinnamate free diet.
Wheat grains in and of themselves are supposed to be completely free of benzoates & cinnamates. They do sometimes cause difficulties for people who have, or suspect they have, gut Crohns, because of the gluten content. Severe wheat sensitivity does not appear to be that common among people who just have OFG (oral crohns) without additional complications – many of us can tolerate some wheat in their diet with no problems, and only encounter difficulties when we eat too much (I include myself in this category).
However a problem can arise with bleached wheat flour, specifically as it can sometimes be bleached with benzoate chemicals. Let me stress that this should not happen in the UK, and I believe that flour sold in other EU countries is also safe. An enquiry to the UK Food Standards Agency yielded this reply:
Thank you for your recent query regarding flour bleaching and how to identify this as a consumer.
I can confirm that the bleaching of flour is not allowed in the UK as per section 5(1) of the Bread and Flour Regulations 1998 (as amended).
Previously used bleaching agents such as chlorine, bromates and peroxides are no longer permitted.
No Importer shall:
* import into GB any flour, or
* sell any flour imported by him
Which does not comply with this regulation.
These regulations also apply to processed foods made with wheat flour.
Therefore, there is no risk to you as a consumer of inadvertently purchasing and consuming flour that may have been bleached if that flour is brought from a retailer within the UK.
If you live, or are visiting somewhere, outside the EU, you should check local regulations regarding flour bleaching. Many places in the world still permit bleached flour to be sold and to be used to manufacture wheat goods (bread, cakes, biscuits, cookies, pastries etc.). If you are unsure, or if you discover that there are no regulations forbidding or controlling the use of bleached flour, you may be wise to cut out all processed goods containing wheat, and restrict yourself to baking your own using flour specifically labelled as ‘unbleached’.
If you live in the UK, you can be reasonably certain that any flour that is sold here, or is used to manufacture foods here, is unbleached, and thus should be safe to eat it. I believe the same goes for other EU countries, although readers may wish to confirm this with the relevant authorities.
There may be the occasional problem where imported goods, specifically imported wheat-based processed food, has some bleached flour in it that has slipped ‘under the radar’ so to speak. I personally don’t believe this is common but a friend and fellow OFG-sufferer was once told by a manufacturer that it can and does happen occasionally.
If you are at all concerned about this issue or if you have multiple reactions to wheat, it may be wise to avoid any food imported that contains it and look alternative grains. If you think your difficulties are caused by gluten, rather than wheat alone, it is important to remember that gluten is also found in rye, barley and oats. Gluten-free grains include corn (maize), rice, millet, quinoa and many others.
And one final word on the topic – don’t assume you have a wheat intolerance or that bleached flour was used on the basis of a reaction to a supermarket loaf of sliced bread – the vast majority of sliced loaves sold in the UK at the moment have soya in them in some proportion or other, which IS a common and well-known ‘nasty’ that triggers OFG reactions in a lot of us. Try a few weeks of eating your own home-baked bread or a loaf specifically labelled as soya-free before you label wheat as the culprit.