Ropey bread occurs in bread fermented with yeast or sourdough and causes the crumb to become discoloured, soft and sticky but cannot be detected until one or two days after baking, when the bread is cut open.
The problem mainly occurs during industrial production in hot conditions and ingestion of the spoiled bread can result in headaches, nausea and vomiting.
It is a particular problem in the case of high loaves such as sliced breads which can shelter spores in the soft centre where they are insulated from higher external temperatures.
Now, following reports of the condition among Italian bakers, scientists from Italy's National Research Council (CNR) have selected a strain of lactic acid bacteria for producing a preferment which works to prevent ropey bread and extend the product's microbiological shelf-life by delaying mould growth.
The CNR believes the preferment has great potential in the baking industry and is currently searching for an ingredients manufacturer as it awaits licensing for the patent.
Inventor Dr Francesca Valerio told bakeryandsnacks.com: "We need a manufacturing company which has the bakery industries as main clients and could produces large amounts of the lactic acid bacterial preferment. Then, this company should have some fundamental apparatus like a fermentator and a sample concentrator (spray drier, freeze drier etc)"
The product is mixed into dough and bread-making continues as normal through the usual steps of leavening, moulding and baking.
The ingredient can be used in its original form or purified and freeze-dried to make a dry powder.
It is suitable for a number of commercial applications, including leavened bakery goods such as croissants, whole-corn breads and those flavoured with spices, sunflower seeds, poppy seeds, raisins or olives.
According to the Institute of Sciences of Food Production at CNR: "The use of this lactic acid bacterial preferment meets the requests of bakery producers for tools alternative to additives (recent EU legislation has lowered the dosages allowed for admitted additives, thus reducing their effectiveness) that may act as baking improvers by obtaining baked goods with enhanced microbial shelf-life, rheology, texture and flavour similar to sourdough leavened products."