The food science industry has used chlorination to improve cake flour for decades. Chlorine gas is an inexpensive way to bleach flour and produce fine, white crumbs that are admired by cake bakers. However, the use of chlorine gas in food production has come under scrutiny due to its potential risks to human health and the environment.

Due to consumer demand, many food manufacturing companies have acknowledged that the food industry is shifting away from using chemicals in various foods, which could include chlorine.

As a result, food manufacturers are seeking alternatives to chlorine gas treatment for cake flour production. Enzyme-based treatments and natural solutions are some potential alternatives.

This guide will outline the possible risks associated with the chlorination of flour, as well as alternatives for flour treatment. We will also discuss why enzyme-based treatments may be the best available alternative.

What is chlorine gas and how is it used?

Chlorine gas is commonly used as disinfectant due to its powerful oxidizing properties which enable it to eliminate bacteria and viruses. It is widely used in household cleaners, water treatment plants, and industrial settings.

When it comes to the food industry, chlorine is a highly effective and widely used chemical disinfectant. It can destroy harmful microorganisms on surfaces and equipment in food processing plants and disinfect fresh produce. Chlorine also has a bleaching effect and is used in the milling industry to bleach flour.

Why is cake flour treated with chlorine gas?

Cake flour is chlorinated to improve its cake-baking properties. One of the primary effects of chlorine-treated flour is that it lowers the flour’s pH.  This helps to decrease browning and assist in mold prevention.

Chlorination’s effect on the starch component of flour can also increase the flour’s water absorption capacity. This means it absorbs more liquid and can produce a more moist and tender cake. In addition, chlorination weakens the flour proteins to produce a finer crumb texture in comparison to unchlorinated flour. This gives cakes a lighter and more delicate mouth feel.

It can also improve baked goods’ volume and texture. Furthermore, chlorination bleaches the flour to create a whiter appearance.

These characteristics are beneficial in producing “high-ratio cakes,” in which means the proportion of sugar and shortening to flour is equal to or greater than one.

The risks and drawbacks of chlorine treatment

The use of chlorine gas to treat flour presents a variety of risks, as it can have harmful health effects even in small amounts. As a result, chlorinated flour raises some concerns about its impact on human health and the environment when released into the air.

Health risks

Chlorine reacts to produce compounds like hypochlorous acid, hydrochloric acid, and other chloride salts when added to water. These compounds can irritate the eyes, skin, and mucous membranes.

Exposure to higher levels of chlorine, which could occur in the event of a workplace release, can be fatal and lead to immediate respiratory arrest.

Although you can minimize these health hazards by following appropriate workplace measures, it’s crucial to understand that there is a likelihood of decreased demand for chlorinated flours because of these potential health risks. Therefore, it’s best to explore alternative options to flour chlorination.

Environmental concerns

Chlorine-based disinfectants are commonly used to clean and disinfect buildings and outdoor areas. However, these chemicals infiltrate into the environment, including soil and water.

Chlorine-based disinfectants can produce byproducts known as chlorinated hydrocarbons when they come into contact with organic and inorganic matter. These byproducts have been found to have potentially harmful effects on the environment, particularly in aquatic systems.

Chlorinated hydrocarbons can potentially disrupt the microbial balance in ecosystems, endangering the well-being of aquatic systems and wildlife. These byproducts can cause direct harm to both plants and animals by breaking down their cell walls and proteins, potentially resulting in death.

Considering these environmental concerns, exploring more environmentally friendly alternatives to chlorine-based flour treatment is worthwhile.

Altered taste

Although not immediately noticeable to everyone, chlorinated flour can have a slightly tangy, acidic flavor in comparison to non-chlorinated flour. The tanginess is believed to stem from the production of hydrochloric acid, a byproduct of the chlorination process. This highly acidic substance can impact the taste of the flour products and alter their natural flavor profile.

Untreated flour is known for its mild and creamy taste, which people often prefer over the sharper taste of chlorinated flour. As a result, flour manufacturers are beginning to explore alternative methods for treating flour.

Enzyme-based alternatives to chlorine treatment

Enzymes are proteins that act as biological catalysts.  They can separate or link various components of a flour system such as improving flour lipid and water emulsion, creating sugar from starches, and even shortening protein chains.  Enzyme-based treatment of flours can improve the baking quality and characteristics of the final baked goods and may be a safer alternative to chlorine treatment in some products.

Notably, the high heat of baking deactivates enzymes, significantly reducing potential health risks. Below is a list of enzyme treatments that produce effects comparable to those of chlorinated cake flour.


Proteases are enzymes that break down proteins into smaller amino acid chains. When proteases are added to flour, they directly break down and weaken the gluten protein network (responsible for the unique structure and texture of baked goods).

Breaking down the amino acid chains that make up wheat protein allows flour to exhibit the tender, delicate crumb associated with soft goods. This is ideal for cake type products as it promotes a light, fluffy texture.


Amylases are enzymes that reduce the size of large starch molecules and thereby can reduce the viscosity of a starch solution or batter.  Amylases can bring about significant changes in a flour’s starch pasting viscosity and therefore bring a range of benefits to the baking process.

One of amylase’s most significant effects with potential to aid a cake resides in its starch modification ability.

The ability to affect solubility and batter viscosity, improves flowability as well as aiding in the prevention of starch retrogradation, thus helping to reduce the likelihood of a cake becoming dry and tough after baking.


Lipases are enzymes that accelerate the hydrolysis of lipids (fat molecules). When added to flour, lipases can significantly impact the product’s initial crumb softness, cake volume, crumb uniformity and shelf life.

One effect of lipase enzymes is its ability to act as an emulsifier in cake flour. Hydrolyzing fat molecules enables the cake flour to mix more readily with other ingredients, leading to an increased batter viscosity. This contributes to the production of cakes with a more desirable quality and texture.

In addition to improving the quality of baked goods, lipases can also increase their shelf life. Lipases break fats into smaller molecules that interact more effectively with the starches in the flour. This reduces the initial firmness of cakes and other baked goods, leading to less staling and longer shelf life.

cake flour

Why enzyme-based flour treatment is the best alternative for your baking needs

Enzyme-based flour treatment is the best alternative to chlorine-treated flours, offering the following advantages over other alternatives.

Produces finer crumb texture

One of the significant benefits of enzyme-based treatments is their ability to produce a finer crumb texture. This helps improve the market acceptance of a cake from non-chlorinated flour.


Enzyme-based treatments are typically produced using green technologies, such as fermentation and extraction from plant or fungal sources, which have a low environmental impact.

These technologies minimize the use of harsh chemicals and reduce waste, making enzyme-based treatments a sustainable and eco-friendly option for the food industry. And since enzymes are biodegradable, they pose no significant environmental risks.

Safe for health

Another key benefit of enzyme-based treatments is that heat inactivates the enzymes, ensuring the safe consumption of baked goods. This reduces any potential health risks associated with enzyme-based treatments and guarantees a safe and healthy baking experience.

Potential challenges of enzyme-based treatments and how to overcome them

Despite these benefits, one of the major challenges of using enzymes for flour treatment is their cost. Enzymes are relatively expensive when compared to chemicals, as it is important to ensure they do not contain unwanted side activity, are formulated correctly, as well as handled and stored to maximize their shelf life.

However, optimizing the dosage and application of enzymes can reduce the impact of the cost difference and even lead to overall production savings.

Additionally, training personnel on proper handling and storage techniques is very important. This includes storing the enzymes under the appropriate conditions and using them within their expiration date.

Discover the benefits of hydroSOFT Cake Technologies from Engrain

Overall, enzyme-based treatments entail the least amount of risk to both human health and the environment. They can significantly improve baking properties and contribute to the production of high-quality cakes.

The decision regarding the alternative to chlorination ultimately relies on the resources accessible to the miller and the specific demands of the baker. Nevertheless, it’s worth considering enzyme-based treatments as a promising option.

Given the many options available, finding a safe alternative to chlorine-treated flour can be difficult. Fortunately, millers can take advantage of Engrain’s hydroSOFT Cake Technologies for high-quality cake flour.

We designed our enzyme-based treatment to mimic the results of chlorinated flour by yielding finer crumbs, resulting in lighter and fluffier cakes with a high volume. Moreover, its whitening effect improves the flour’s appearance and moisture retention prolonging its shelf life.

Notably, hydroSOFT Cake Technologies is especially useful for businesses lacking access to a chlorination system or soft wheat flour. And its use of enzymes makes it a more sustainable and eco-friendly option than traditional chlorination.

For a safer alternative to chlorination treatment that offers equivalent- or superior-quality cake flour, consider trying hydroSOFT Cake Technologies today.