Why does the bread taste like detergent?
August 19, 2017 8:09 PM   Subscribe

I am presently in Costa Rica on vacation. It's my second trip here, I am a pretty experienced traveler, but I swear to the Flying Spaghetti Monster that much of the bread tastes like detergent to me. I thought it was just the Bimbo brand breads, as those are sweeter breads, but I just ate some tortillas and those had the same laundry detergent aftertaste. Is it the plastic the breads are wrapped in? I also tried some bread from the Alemagne bakery and it had less of a detergent flavor, but it was a plainer, more salty type of white bread. This is so odd to me. I didn't notice sweet-detergent bread the last time I was here, but now that I think about it, I didn't eat as much bread on that trip. Any explanation?
posted by stowaway to Food & Drink (15 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Did you check the ingredient lists -- could there be cilantro?
posted by Mchelly at 8:19 PM on August 19, 2017 [2 favorites]

Just to clarify, there was no cilantro involved (mostly white breads, alas) and I don't taste soap in cilantro anyway.
posted by stowaway at 8:25 PM on August 19, 2017

Have you changed your lotion or hand soap? If I've used a new, particularly powerful-smelling one, or even been seated next to someone wearing a powerful cologne, this sometimes happens to me.
posted by stillmoving at 8:30 PM on August 19, 2017

Are you sick? Have you been sick? Is your nose stuffed up? Could you be pregnant? All could cause odd tastes in your mouth.
posted by arnicae at 8:54 PM on August 19, 2017

Costa Rican toothpaste?
posted by Oyéah at 9:01 PM on August 19, 2017

Are your fellow travelers also experiencing this?
posted by beaning at 9:29 PM on August 19, 2017

I'm not familiar with this part of the world but could it be the raising agent used e.g. lye (which tastes soapy) or the way grains are processed e.g. limewater?
posted by whitelotus at 9:43 PM on August 19, 2017 [4 favorites]

Baking soda tastes like soap. Maybe they use a different raising agent then what you're used to.
posted by The Toad at 9:45 PM on August 19, 2017

Costa Rican toothpaste?

This could be. An overdose of fluoride can cause a soapy taste in the mouth. Have you used a different toothpaste or mouth rinse?
posted by Vispa Teresa at 10:33 PM on August 19, 2017 [1 favorite]

Not sick or pregnant; still using my regular toothpastes and soaps. My husband didn't go so far to call it detergent, but said "I know what you mean. There's something there." It's not just one loaf of bread, and I can smell it when I open the bags. I never noticed baking soda tasting like soap before, but maybe?
posted by stowaway at 6:50 AM on August 20, 2017

i've had this happen before, i forget with what prepackaged food item, but possibly crackers? i eventually deduced that it was from having this item stored too closely in high indoor temperatures to cleaning products, because the overpowering odor of the food item was identical to a laundry/dish soap i used. both the food item and the soap product were still factory sealed at the time of the olfactory contamination.
posted by poffin boffin at 12:09 PM on August 20, 2017 [2 favorites]

Does coconut ever come across soapy to you? I know it can for some. Any coconut oil in the items?

Something like this happens to me with produce occasionally, usually broccoli. It's not cilantro, as that isn't soapy to me; it's some definite industrial "fresh" smell. I've wondered if it's something in the post-harvest processing or some fragranced body care product someone stacking produce at the store is using, but that seems unlikely to be what's happening for you with grain products. I am super, super sensitive to scents.
posted by jocelmeow at 2:53 PM on August 20, 2017

I had this happen in the US a couple of years ago. The first time it was so marked I took it back to the store and complained. They gave me another loaf, same thing. I switched brands, ditto. I switched brands AND stores, still detergent-flavored. At that point, I decided it must be me. I looked online, and all I could find were people asking about it and theories for answers, much like this thread. I realized when reading your question that I hadn't noticed it in a while.

It seems to have lasted for me about 6 months and was worst with regular white bread, but happened to some degree with all bread. I wasn't pregnant, I wasn't sick, nothing else seemed to taste weird except crackers, a little bit. It was odd and discomfiting. I finally decided that I was suddenly sensitive to something about the process for some reason. I can't remember the last time my bread tasted soapy, thankfully. All of this is to say that maybe either it is just a weird thing that happens that happened to coincide with your vacation, or maybe whatever process they use there produces more of the mystery substance.

Anyway, it quit for me after a time, and I'm glad, because not being able to enjoy bread was awful. I hope things return to normal one way or another for you.
posted by thebrokedown at 4:20 AM on August 21, 2017 [1 favorite]

I used to experience something similar with watermelon. Whenever I bought it pre-chopped there would be a weird "clean" flavor. Someone suggested that maybe wherever the fruit was cut used a certain kind of cleaning solution.
posted by mokeydraws at 8:43 PM on August 21, 2017

It's been a while since the trip but I thought I'd update anyway -- it absolutely 100% was the detergent. My husband had been the one doing the grocery shopping, but one time when I went to the grocery store the overpowering aroma of laundry detergent hit me like a ton of bricks. I think the humid environment encourages the smells to emanate into everything. Hasn't been a problem since we came back. Except for the detergent-flavored bread, I miss Costa Rica.
posted by stowaway at 3:19 PM on October 22, 2017

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