Cancerous' bread? In India, US, not in China

May 24 2016 4:09PM


NEW DELHI: In 2007, China removed a whole batch of imported potato chips from its stores' shelves, as it believed the chips contained a chemical called potassium bromate, that's banned in the country.

A quick guess where the chips were made? No, they weren't made in India; they were made in the US.

India's food standards regulator is then in good company - depending on how you look at it.

US and India Allow Potassium Bromate

Both the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India and the US's regulator, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) have not banned the use of potassium bromate, the carcinogenic chemical used in the making of commercial bread.

A study by the Centre for Science and Environment - that was made public yesterday - said almost 84 per cent of 38 commonly available brands of pre-packaged breads tested positive for potassium bromate and potassium iodate. The bread samples tested included those of 'top' brands like Britannia, Harvest Gold. Also tested was the bread at multinational fast food chains like KFC, Pizza Hut, Domino's, Subway and McDonald's.

India's food safety regulator allows the use of the two chemicals "at 50 parts per million (ppm) max for bread and at 20 ppm max in maida for bakery purposes," said Ramesh Mago, president of the All India Bread Manufacturers' Association on Monday. He was saying they aren't violating law.

The US FDA didn't ban it, partly because the amount of potassium bromate that remains in bread after baking should be negligible, that is less than 20 parts per billion (ppb). That's the American industry standard.

Cancer in Rats

In 1982, Japanese researchers published the first in a series of studies showing that potassium bromate causes cancer in the thyroid, kidneys and other parts of rats and mice.

It was after these findings that many countries banned the chemical.

The UK and the European Union banned potassium bromate as early as in 1990. And in addition to China, Canada, Brazil, Australia and New Zealand have also banned its use.

How Potassium Bromate Works

What is potassium bromate? It is added to wheat flour to strengthen the dough and to allow it to rise higher. It bleaches the dough and increases its elasticity by making tiny bubbles that help the bread rise. So, you get a loaf that's soft, fluffy and oddly, white.

According to Livescience.com, the problem arises when "bromate flour isn't baked for long enough or at a high enough temperature, or if too much potassium bromate is added in the first place".

What happens then is that the bromate can potentially be found in the final product in far greater quantities, and that's the problem around the world in countries that allow its use, scientists have said.

And, sure enough, the US FDA says that when potassium bromate - if used correctly - should convert into potassium bromide - which is harmless - during the baking process. Yet, the US won't monitor the use of or ban potassium bromate. It asks that companies "voluntarily" not use it.

Consumers Spooked

Indians, who in recent years have become more relatively more conscious about what they eat, are spooked.

As of early afternoon on Monday, shares of Jubilant FoodWorks, Westlife Development and Britannia Industries tumbled up to 12.4 per cent. Jubilant FoodWorks operates the Domino's Pizza and Dunkin Donuts chains and Westlife Development - through a subsidiary - runs the McDonald's restaurants in western and southern Indian markets.

Grind Your Own

There's no way of knowing if your bread has potassium bromate, if you're ordering a pizza or are eating out at a restaurant.

 

The only way to be sure is if you grind your own flour, straight from the grain - those golden-brown kernels you may have seen sitting in sacks in 'art' films about farmers.
 

Source:-TOI

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