Since 2003, more than 2,000 routine health tests have shown that the official baked good of Bavaria is contaminated through aluminium from baking trays.
In 2007, almost one-third of pretzels had to be thrown away because of excessive aluminium levels.
“Pretzels often contain far too much aluminium,” Daniel Krehl of the Bavarian Consumers' Centre (VZ Bayern) told the Süddeutsche Zeitung (SZ).
The maximum permitted level is 10 milligrammes per kilo of product.
But the state health and food safety office (LGL) told SZ that the record amount of aluminium found in a pretzel sample was 156 milligrammes per kilo.
“That's more than 15 times the permitted maximum,” Krehl said. “Something like that is beyond good and evil.”
Health risks from aluminium are believed to include an increased risk of breast cancer in women, and the metal has been linked to Alzheimer's disease and other illnesses.
Aluminium contamination in pretzels can occur when alkaline sodium lye – sprayed on the snacks to give them their signature hard crust and glossy colour - attacks baking trays, freeing metal particles which are then transferred to the dough during baking.
Time to say 'enough'
“This has been going on for years and it's time to say 'enough',” a spokesperson for VZ Bayern told The Local.
“Bakers need to stop using aluminium trays, but they're happy with the results they get using them and don't want to change to something else.”
She suggested that people should check with their local baker whether they use aluminium trays for pretzels and consider giving children a different snack from the bakery.
They can reach maximum safe levels of one milligramme per kilogramme of body weight much faster than adults.
“We've known about this for a long time,” a spokesperson for the Bavarian Federation of Bakers' Guilds (LIV Bäcker Bayern) told The Local.
“The longer you leave the pretzels before putting them in the oven, the higher the risk.
“This is a question of production methods and it depends on the baker how much aluminium will be transferred.
“We don't want to minimise this and we've been working with our bakers for years on how we can bring these values down.”