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Dangerous ingredient in bread?

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Dangerous ingredient in bread?

In the news this week was a petition by The Center for Science in the Public Interest directed to the FDA, to prohibit use of potassium bromate in bread production.  See a copy of the press release about this petition on CSPI's home page.

This chemical has been used in small amounts for years to assist in producing a strong, cohesive bread dough.  CSPI charges that the FDA has long known that bromate causes cancers of the kidneys and thyroid in laboratory rats, but has failed to ban it.  This danger was not known years ago, and the chemical was grandfathered in for use when present laws went into effect banning carcinogens in food. 

The FDA has urged manufacturers to voluntarily cease utilizing it, but since it's cheap and effective, compliance has not been widespread.  Thinking in the industry is often that various methods can reduce residues, and that should be sufficient.  But since the list of ingredients on a product don't give the residual amounts, we never know if these guidelines are followed or violated.    Not only that, the amount of potassium bromate is reduced with correct handling, but not completely eliminated. 

So why is it still included in many consumer bread products?

It's not allowed in many countries.  United Kingdom, Canada, Japan and Greece, among others, have banned its use, and it has to be labeled as a carcinogen when included in products sold in California (that's a sobering way wake up and smell the toast!).  This should give us assurance that it's a real problem, taken seriously by many.

I'm not a chemist or a biologist.  Doesn't matter; I would take wagers that you would find plenty of experts on both sides of the fence.  As with most food advice, you have to make up your own mind.  You can do research until the cows come home, toss a coin, or figure it doesn't matter because we all have to go sometime.   For example, a disclaimer from "Nutrition News Focus", whose mission statement is "The free daily newspaper that takes the confusion out of nutrition news".  Never-the-less, they article ends:

"Potential public health risks like this are very difficult to evaluate because the risk from potassium bromate appears to be extremely small; it is not required in breads, so should it be allowed? The science is not clear on this."

What it boils down to is that we don't have to eat bread with this additive.  There's many brands that don't use it.  So why take chances with our own heath and that of our loved ones? 

In the face of mounting concerns some manufacturers of bread and bread products (doughnuts, rolls and other yeast dough products) have eliminated potassium bromate from their  products.  For instance, to name a few of the more famous ones, Arnolds, Entenmann’s, Orowheat,  Pepperidge Farm and Pillsbury don't use it now.    

For most people, bread and other yeast-raised bread products are a staple item in the diet:  sandwiches, pizzas, doughnuts, dinner rolls, bagels and buns to name a few.  This means it's not an occasional thing; it may be a day-in, day-out unwanted and possibly dangerous addition to your diet.

So memorize this phrase: "Potassium Bromate".    Then do the following:

  • You probably buy mostly the same brands of breads and other yeast dough items.  Check the ingredient list.  If potassium bromate is listed, try  another brand.   There's plenty on the market.

  • Write to the manufacturer of brands who uses this chemical and explain why you have stopped buying their product.

  • If you find it included in house brands or chain brands, contact the home office of that store or chain and protest.

  • Contact the Food and Drug Administration.  You can visit their website, or write to:

    • Food and Drug Administration
      Center for Food Safety & Applied Nutrition
      200 C Street SW
      Washington, DC 20204 

A crowd is only made up of individuals.  Remember, your voice and your consumer dollar count.  If you'd like to see this chemical additive discontinued, you know what to do.

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