What is the name of the harmful food additive used in the bread-making-process?

Potassium bromate (KBrO3) is an oxidising agent that has been used as a food additive, mainly in the bread-making process.

An activist group Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) did a study of many brands of packaged bread, and the bread used in ready to eat burgers and pizzas in 2016.

In its study, CSE found that bread manufacturers used potassium bromate for treating flour, which was classified as possibly carcinogenic to humans.

One other additive Potassium iodate (KIO3) was also found in the sample which could cause thyroid-related problems.

Soon after the study was released, the national food safety regulator, Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) removed potassium bromate from the list of permitted additives and said it is examining the evidence against potassium iodate.

Why is it used?

  • Potassium bromate, or simply called bromate, is an oxidizer used to strengthen dough and enhance its elasticity. This helps bake uniformly and whitened bread.
  • Potassium bromate is cheaper and more widely available than other food additives, and gives a better end-product.

Where is it banned?

The European Union, China, South Korea, Sri Lanka, Canada, Australia, Brazil, Peru and Columbia have banned the use of potassium bromate as a flour treatment agent.

The EU has banned potassium iodate as well.

India and the US continue to allow the use of potassium bromate in permissible limits.

In the United States,  it was first patented for use in baking bread, in 1914.

India allows the use of potassium bromate and/or iodate up to 50 ppm on flour mass basis, while the US allows it up to 75 ppm and manufacturers must list the ingredient on food labels.

Alternatives to potassium bromate:

  • Ascorbic acid or Vitamin-C
  • Glucose oxidase
  • Ammonium persulphate
  • Ammonium chloride and
  • Amylases.

Potassium bromate is an unnecessary and potentially harmful food additive and should be avoided.

Sources:

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