I've recently moved from Holland to the UK, and one thing I've been noticing is that the available bread here (which I feel is highly inferior to Dutch bread) does not go mouldy. When left in the open, it merely goes hard.

Then I've recently found some nice Polish bread with sour-dough, hidden away in the foreign section, and that one does go bad, like I'm used to from Dutch bread.

So I've been thinking: I've observed that most foods that are nutritious or fresh go mouldy after a while (vegetables etc) and foods that aren't very good for you (like sugar, chocolate, but also frozen foods) often are very preservable. To me (someone who is not very knowledgeable when it comes to chemistry or baking) it makes sense, because I figure the mould feeds off the nutrients.

My question is; Am I right? And if so, does that mean the English breads, that don't go mouldy, aren't as nutritious?

  • 1
    I'd check the nutrition labels of both types of breads, and the ingredients lists.
    – DForck42
    May 13, 2013 at 19:49
  • 3
    It's a well-known problem, dating back at least 5 centuries, when ships had to bring preserved foods along. Crackers are a good alternative for bread, as they can combine carbs, proteins, fats, and vitamin B. The biggest problem was of course vitamin C, which isn't a very stable chemical.
    – MSalters
    May 13, 2013 at 20:59
  • In my experience artisinal sour-dough bread (that is with none or very little yeast added), don't go moldy either, if stored in a kitchen towel or paper bag (plastic would make it very chewy). It just dries out instead and that's a perfect time to make grilled cheese sandwich!
    – citizen
    May 16, 2013 at 14:46

3 Answers 3


Bread which is left out can have any number of things happen to it, all of which are usually progressing at once, although one will win out as the primary thing you experience:

  • It goes stale, that is, the starches in the bread lose their hydration and re-crystallize giving the bread a harder texture
  • It dries out, losing moisture to the atmosphere (or if it is very humid, it can get soggy, gaining moisture from the air)
  • It molds, if it is moist enough for molds to thrive
  • Its gets eaten by humans, insects, dogs or other large scale breadophilic creatures

The only question is which happens first or most dominantly.

This can depend on the moisture level in the bread, natural anti-bacterial or anti-fungal agents in the bread (like honey) or artificial preservatives, the particular environment the bread is in (and how many mold spores there are)--any place that has had moldy bread is going to have more mold spores for future moldy bread than average.

I would not try to relate any of this to nutrition, or to a veiled evaluation of the relative quality of benefit of the bread that is available in one country or another.

The notion that mold requires nutrtion is true, but it is not the whole picture: it also requires a hospitable environment (pH neither to high or low, not to much osmotic pressure from salt or sugar, sufficient moisture) and so on. Chocolate is extremely nutritious in the sense that it is composed nearly 99% of things that are metabolized, but it does not host molds because it is also 100% dry. Dried salted cod, again, highly nutritious, but not hospitable to molds.

You cannot take only the growth or non-growth of molds as an indicator of level of nutrition.

Furthermore, the notion of "nutritious" is extremely complicated. It involves requiring sufficient calories (as from fats or sugars), as well as vitamins, minerals and other micro nutrients. It is not a simple yes or no thing.

  • @Joe That I took into account. Hence that I added the section about the Polish bread. I can tell from experience (based on taste and consistence) that the English bread if far from the same as the Dutch bread, and the Polish bread is a lot more similar. I've been keeping the English and the Polish breads in exactly the same environment and yet they behave differently every time.
    – Avaq
    May 15, 2013 at 9:03
  • and don't forget that what's nutritious to fungi is not necessarily nutritious to humans and v.v. :)
    – jwenting
    Jun 14, 2013 at 8:42

I feel I must apologise for our bread. I think that you're being very polite calling it bread at all.

The answer above was very interesting, but your gut instinct was correct. Highly processed foods don't go mouldy because the processing usually takes steps to prevent it.

Bread you buy in a supermarket in the UK is made in a factory using something called the Chorelywood process. It was developed in the 1960's when British food was actually as terrible as the French say it is.

If you have a look at the ingredients you can see why it keeps longer. It has huge numbers of additives. There's even butter in it. (Fortunately they've stopped using lard.)

You should still be able to get hold of real bread from a baker, and most supermarkets bake bread in the store which is a little better. Or if you like the Polish bread I'd stick with that.

  • 1
    The claim that your body has trouble extracting nutrients out of processed foods is a pretty big one, that'd require some evidence. Far more likely is that highly processed foods have had a lot of nutrients removed (e.g. white flour doesn't contain all the things whole wheat flour does).
    – Cascabel
    May 16, 2013 at 0:34
  • @Jefromi: removed.
    – Tim
    May 16, 2013 at 8:10
  • Thank you for this answer! :) Upvoted for introducing me to the Chorleywood bread process and for the tips about good bread. I have yet to come by a proper bakery (all I've seen are the indoor "bakery" sections in supermarkets that have the supposed baker sneakily filling the shelves from the other side), and they sell decent bread, though usually white, and usually expensive. The answer given by SAJ already mentioned artificial preservatives, and I figured they would play a big part. It's nice to see something to back that theory up.
    – Avaq
    May 16, 2013 at 13:34
  • Unfortunately in the UK bread is generally viewed as just a way of holding bacon. Good luck finding some real bread though. If you can't it might be worth buying a breadmaker.
    – Tim
    May 16, 2013 at 18:31

If you can manage it, with time constraints and equipment, you might just want to try baking your own bread instead. Bread that is made from inferior ingredients, and overly processed will indeed not mold. (As explained previously.)

You can also see this when comparing butter (roomboter) with margarine (Becel, etc.) at room temperature. Your butter will become rancid and spoil, while your margarine (read: plastic) will remain the same over a period of months. While this is slightly off-topic, it's the same principle.

Personally, I live in the Netherlands, so I can't point you in the right direction of some good bread. However, if you wish to bake your own, I can happily share recipes - though the internet is a great source for those as well.

  • 1
    Welcome to Seasoned Advice! This was flagged by a couple people as not an answer. I think it is - you're saying that processed foods don't go bad as quickly, and it's pretty clear which you prefer. But do note that we're a Q&A site, not a discussion forum (see the tour page for a quick explanation, and the faq for more), and in terms of answering the question, you haven't said anything new, so you're unlikely to get many upvotes for this. (Also, butter going rancid and bread going moldy aren't really the same principle - decomposition of oils vs. things growing.)
    – Cascabel
    Jun 12, 2013 at 21:43
  • heavily processed foods can get mouldy, it may however take significantly longer, all depends on the food. Try leaving a jar of pasta sauce sitting with the top off for example next to a few slices of freshly baked bread and some Camenbert cheese...
    – jwenting
    Jun 14, 2013 at 8:46

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