New Delhi (ISJ) ? Delhi-based environmental advocacy, Centre for Science and Environment, CSE, cautions, 84% of the commonly available breads in Delhi have presence of possible cancer-causing chemicals. CSE claims, most bread manufacturers use potassium bromate and potassium iodate for treating flour while making bread. Potassium bromated is� classified as a category 2B carcinogen and banned in most countries, while potassium iodate cause thyroid-related diseases.
?We found 84 percent samples positive with potassium bromate/iodate. We re-confirmed the presence of potassium bromate/iodate in a few samples through an external third-party laboratory. We checked labels and talked to industry and scientists,? said Chandra Bhushan, Deputy Director General, CSE and head of CSE?s Pollution Monitoring Laboratory. ?Our study confirms the widespread use of potassium bromate/iodate as well as presence of bromate/iodate residues in the final product.?
CSE?s lab tested 38 commonly available branded varieties of pre-packaged breads, pav and buns, ready-to-eat burger bread and ready-to-eat pizza breads of popular fast food outlets from Delhi. It recommended that FSSAI should ban use of potassium bromate and potassium iodate with immediate effect and prevent their routine exposure to Indian population.
ISJ contacted Britannia Industries, manufacturers of several varieties of breads for their comments, but not responded.
In 1999, the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) classified potassium bromate as possibly carcinogenic (cancer causing) to humans. It was found to cause tumours of the kidney, thyroid and cancer of the abdominal lining in laboratory animals. Considering potassium bromate as a ?genotoxic carcinogen?, the JECFA (WHO/FAO Joint Expert Committee on Food Additives) in 1992 said that ?use of potassium bromate as a flour treatment agent was not appropriate?.
EU had already banned its use in 1990 and so did the UK. Subsequently, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, China, Sri Lanka, Brazil, Nigeria, Peru and Columbia have also decided against its use. CODEX Alimentarius, an international body which sets safety standards for food commodities, formally withdrew specifications of potassium bromate in 2012 ? which means the presence of bromate in food was considered unsafe and illegal for international trade.
?Globally, potassium bromate was allowed to be used on the assumption that the bromate residues would not be present in the end product. This assumption failed across the world. Residues were being detected even after reducing the allowed limits of use and therefore, started banning it. Our study confirms that residues of potassium bromate are present in bread sold in India,? Bhushan pointed out.
The food safety regulations of India allow use of potassium bromate as flour treatment agent in bread and other bakery products. Potassium bromate is a powerful oxidizing agent, use of which makes bread fluffy, soft and gives it a good finish. Under ideal baking conditions, bromate converts into bromide which is harmless. However, this does not seem to happen in practice. While there is not much labelling required on non-packaged fast foods, pre-packaged products have to disclose the flour treatment agent used.