L-Cysteine is used as a reducing agent in bakery products. It is used to:
- Reduce the mixing time of the flour dough.
- Stop shrinking of pizza crust after it is flattened.
- Help move the dough through various bakery processing equipments or dough conditioners.
L-Cystein is used in Bagels, Croissants, Hard Rolls, Cake Donuts (from human hair in Dunkin Donut's cake donuts only, Yeast raised donuts do not contain L-Cysteine), Pita Bread, some Crackers and Melba Toast. It is also used as a nutrient in baby milk formula and dietary supplements.
Many consumers are unaware they are eating hair additives everyday in popular products such as Lunchables, TasteyKakes, Cajun food maker Zatarian’s, as well as products like cigarettes and Emergen-C. Cereal maker Kellogg's no longer uses L-cys in Pop-Tarts, while Safeway said that they use "duck feathers" for in-house bakery goods.
The source of L-Cysteine is human hair, chicken feathers, cow horn, petroleum by-products and synthetic material. L-Cysteine is manufactured in Japan, China and Germany only. Human hair is the cheapest source for L-cysteine.
Mother Jones first brought large-scale attention to this situation in an article earlier this year.
You can read more about L-cysteine and other food additives here.
Read more about why Lunchables are anything but lunchable here.
If you have the time, you should really read all of the above articles. They are such an eye-opener. The more I look into perfectly legal and often "natural" food additives, the more bizarre and disgusting things I discover.
This issue yet again proves the need for feeding our family foods that are as close to the source as possible. Whenever you can, try to cook from scratch with such ingredients as meat and dairy produced by small local ranchers, fresh local produce, and whole grains that you yourself mill and process into your baked goods. Boxed, prepackaged, processed foods should be eliminated from our diets as much as possible. One figure I read said that average Americans spend approximately 90 percent of their food budget on processed foods.