The All India Bread Manufacturers’ Association on Thursday (May 26) said it had decided to voluntarily stop using potassium bromate and potassium iodate as additives in bread from May 27.
Safer alternatives such as ascorbic acid, enzymes and emulsifiers will be used instead. “Many companies are already using these alternatives,” said Mr. Ramesh Mango, president of the association. The cost of a loaf of bread will increase by just 2 paise.
“[Voluntary withdrawal] is not enough. The government must step in and ban these additives,” said Sunita Narain, Director-General of CSE.
The Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) has already stated that it would soon notify the removal of the chemicals from the list of additives based on a recommendation of its scientific panel.
In 1999, the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) classified potassium bromate as Class 2B — possibly carcinogenic (cancer causing). But Mr. Mango said that it was not yet proven that it causes cancer in humans. “But we don’t want controversy. So we are stopping the use of these chemicals,” he said.
Not banned in the U.S.
While the European Union and many countries, including China, have banned potassium bromate as a flour treatment agent, the U.S. and India have permitted its use.
However, the State of California requires foods containing this additive to carry a warning label.
Many small and commercial bakeries voluntarily avoid using bromated flour after the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in 1991 urged bakers to do so. But many groups in the U.S. have been demanding a ban on the additive in bread and flour.
The FDA approves its use up to 75 parts per million (ppm) in flour, while India has limited it to 50 ppm in bread and 20 ppm in flour and refined wheat flour (maida).
As the CSE results show, none of the bread and bakery samples tested exceeded the maximum permissible limit of 50 ppm and hence did not violate the Food Safety and Standards (Food Product Standards and Additives) Regulations, 2011.
Even when potassium iodate is not used, breads will still contain traces of it as the chemical is used for producing iodised salt in India. The European Union, the U.K., Australia and New Zealand have banned potassium iodate for flour treatment.
Potassium bromate is a slow acting oxidising agent that “increases dough strength, leads to higher rising and uniform finish to baked products”. Ascorbic acid is a safer alternative but will not produce comparable results as it is a fast acting oxidising agent.