Bread, buns, biscuits and ready to eat pizza breads are some of the most commonly used instant food items. However, a research claims that these products may contain elements which could be carcinogenic to humans.
A study by Centre for Science and Environment has found that 84% of bread and bakery products samples collected from Delhi contained residues of Potassium Bromate and Potassium Iodate. According to the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), Potassium Bromate has been declared as possibly carcinogenic to humans (Class 2B).
Potassium iodate is also banned in many countries as it can lead to higher intake of iodine, which can potentially affect thyroid function. But India continues to allow the use of these treatment agents.
Potassium Bromate (KBrO3, E number - E924) is a flour improver that acts as a maturing agent. It is a colourless, odourless and tasteless white crystal/powder.
It is a toxic substance and has various health effects. Joint FAO/WHO Expert Committee on Food Additives after evaluating the health risk of Potassium Bromate concluded that its use as a flour treatment agent is not acceptable.
It has been banned from use in food products in the European Union, Canada, Nigeria, Brazil, South Korea, Peru and some other countries. It was banned in Sri Lanka in 2001 and in China in 2005.
Potassium Bromate can cause abdominal pain, diarrhoea, nausea, vomiting, kidney failure, oligonuria (low output of urine), anuria (failure of kidneys to produce urine), deafness, vertigo, and hypotension, depression of the central nervous system, thrombocytopenia with other related health problems. It also affects the nutritional quality of bread by degrading the vitamins and essential fatty acid contents of flour.
Significant differences in essential fatty acid content of flour treated with bromate or in bread made from flour containing bromate have been reported in several studies.
But the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) permits use of potassium bromate and/or potassium iodate in bread and bakery products. As per the Food Safety Standards (Food Product Standards and Additives) Regulations, 2011 the limit for maximum level of use of potassium bromate and/or potassium iodate is set at 50 mg/Kg in bread. In flour for bakery potassium bromate is permitted with the maximum level of use at 20 mg/Kg.