- A study reveals the presence of potassium
bromate, a potential carcinogenic agent, in 84% of the bread samples
- Potassium bromate is banned in many countries and
considered 'hazardous' to health.
- Indian government bans
the use of potassium bromate as a food additive in bread and other food items.
substance, potassium iodate, is currently being reviewed.
The Government of India on 20th
June 2016, in a landmark judgment, has banned the use of potassium bromate as a
food additive in
the preparation of bread
and other food items after recommendations
of the Food Safety Standards Authority of India (FSSAI). The recommendations
were based on a study conducted by the Center for Science and Environment
The CSE sampled 38 commonly used
brands of pre-packaged bread, burger bun, and pizza bread. 84% of these samples were found to contain
potassium bromate or potassium iodate.
‘Indian government has banned the use of potassium bromate, a carcinogenic substance, as a food additive, after a study found it present in 84% of the commonly-used breads.’
Potassium bromate is a category 2B
carcinogen (cancer-causing agent) and is therefore banned for use as a food additive
in many countries. Potassium iodate,
on the other hand, has potential effects on the thyroid and may trigger
disorders of the gland. The presence of these two chemicals in the samples was
verified by authorities to ensure the results.
Use of Potassium Bromate in Bread
Bread manufacturers use potassium
bromate and iodate in bread as maturing agents and dough conditioners due to
its oxidizing properties. The typical white color of bread is due to potassium
bromate as this chemical bleaches the flour and creates bubbles which make the
dough rise and become soft and spongy.
Potassium bromate was one of the
1100 food additives permissible for use in the Indian food industry. It was
allowed at 50 parts per million for bread (maximum) and 20 parts per million
for other bakery purposes.
Potassium bromate converts to
another compound, potassium bromide, if it is subjected to an appropriate
temperature for an appropriate length of time while baking. Failure to do
either may result in the presence of potassium bromate in much higher
concentrations in the final product.
Carcinogenic Property of Potassium Bromate
A team of researchers from Japan
published a study in the year 1982 that revealed that potassium bromate causes
cancers of the thyroid, kidney and other organs in rats.
A review published in the Environmental
in the year 1990 assessed the study conducted to
evaluate the effect of single administration of potassium bromate in groups of
five male and five female each of F344 rats, B6C3F1 mice and Syrian golden
hamsters. In all the species administered with high-doses, two-thirds of the
animals died within 3 hours while the rest died within the ensuing 48 hours.
In 1999, the International Agency
for Research on Cancer (IARC) labeled potassium bromate as a potential
Potassium bromate exhibits oxidizing property which is the
reason for its use in bread industry. The same property is responsible for its
role as a carcinogen as well as in promoting the formation of active oxygen
It was banned for use as a food
additive in the European Union and the United Kingdom as early as 1990. Other
countries like Australia, Brazil, China, Columbia, Nigeria, New Zealand, and
Sri Lanka soon followed suit.
USA and India are the only two
prominent nations that had not banned its use.
In 2007, China withdrew the whole
batch of potato chips
its stores across the country when they were found to contain potassium
bromate. These chips had been imported from the USA.
Impact of the Ban
''FSSAI has banned potassium
bromate. A notification has been issued in this regard. As far as potassium
iodate is concerned, it has been referred to a scientific panel,'' FSSAI CEO
Pawan Kumar Agarwal commented.
This has impacted bread
manufacturers and companies that operate the chains of multinational
restaurants in India. A body of bread manufacturers agreed to stop the use of
the chemical in bread production. The All India Bread Manufacturers'
Association has urged the FSSAI to verify the CSE report's findings and confirm
whether most breads actually contain the chemicals or not.
A large proportion of the
country's population consumes bread. This is especially true for the youths as
multinational fast food joints like Domino's, McDonald's and Dunkin Donuts are
quite popular among them. The ban is significant in preventing a routine exposure
of this population to cancer-causing agents.
''The Authority's quick response to what we found in our
study re-establishes our stand that public health must remain a priority,''
Chandra Bhushan, Deputy Director General of CSE said.
- Govt set to ban
potassium bromate as food additive; CSE report on bread
Toxicity and Carcinogenicity of Potassium Bromate-A New Renal