Food - Drink
The Dangerous Ingredient Victorian Bakers Added To Bread
Bread was a staple of the Victorian Era diet, and it was so important that minimum wages were determined by the cost of bread. Due to the high demand of white bread, bakeries began making two types of it — a higher-quality loaf for people of status and a household loaf with cheap-quality flour that was often adulterated.
Despite a government ban on additives after 1750, bakeries ignored the ban and continued to use additives such as plaster of Paris, chalk, ground-up bone, and alum. Alum, a derivative of aluminum, was freely available, cheap, and tasteless, and it made the bread unnaturally white; it was also used to add bulk to bread so that bakers could charge more.
However, alum led to many health issues — like bowel problems, malnutrition, and rickets — which were often fatal for children. Following an expose, health inspectors were "appalled" at the number of additives in bread, per the Royal Society of Chemists, and it wasn't until the 1870s that the government started policing ingredients and food purity.