25 December 2015
Is there aluminium in bicarbonate of soda?
Fairly frequently, we are asked “is Steenbergs bicarbonate of soda aluminium free?”
In short, yes it is aluminium-free, as well as gluten-free, and Steenbergs organic baking powder is vegan and phosphate-free, while the non-organic baking powder is vegan with corn flour and free of added aluminium.
It’s a weird one this, because bicarbonate of soda is aluminium free and always has been. But a whole lot of discussion seems to have arisen around finding aluminium free baking sodas, and describing the sins of those products that don’t state whether they are aluminium free.
To an extent, people are correct to have concerns, because aluminium is suggested as being linked to neurological disorders because it is a neurotoxin. But initial data that had suggested links to Alzheimer’s have not been proven and the Alzheimer’s Society states “importantly, there is no evidence to suggest that aluminium exposure increases your risk of dementia”. The best information I could find on aluminium from food and other consumer products is the FAQ at the Federal Institute for Risk Assessment (BfR).
As far as I can tell, the story started in America when Bob’s Red Mill Baking Soda began to market a mined bicarbonate of soda as being aluminium free (they don't do this anymore and only show "aluminium-free" on their baking powder). So a myth arose that anything that did not state “aluminium-free” on the label must de facto contain aluminium. In fact, bicarbonate of soda simply does not contain aluminium, whether mined or chemically synthesised, and so long as it is 100% pure bicarbonate of soda never has done.
I hope that clarifies things.
Where it seems the concern arose was in a misunderstanding – baking powders can sometimes include aluminium-based chemicals, but these are different from baking soda (American term used specifically), i.e. baking soda was mistaken for baking powder. So customers should look out for aluminium-free baking powder, but this never seems to be question that’s asked online.
We do test Steenbergs bicarbonate of soda and Steenbergs baking powder for presence of aluminium using laboratories. And we, also, test within Steenbergs for gluten, even if we don't make any declarations on this. Both the bicarbonate of soda and baking powder came up negative for gluten (not detected at 5ppm, i.e. less than 5mg/kg) when I tested the current batches for this blog.
However, sometimes small amounts of aluminium seem to get into baking powder. This must come in with the cornflour or other carrier in the baking powder because no aluminium chemicals have been used in the products - I have checked a few products out there and small amounts seem to sneak in (ranging up to 100ppm), plus I have spoken with manufacturers and they say the same. (Note: some "aluminium free" baking powders state "no added aluminium" or that no sodium aluminium sulphate is included in the mix which arguably is different; in general there is no defined level for which something is "aluminium free").
So neither Steenbergs baking powder nor bicarbonate of soda (a.k.a. baking soda) contain added aluminium and gluten and are vegan, plus our organic baking powder is, also, vegan, phosphate-free, GMO free, organic.