Health Alert! The bread you give your child could contain cancer-causing chemicals!

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Just two slices of bread every day is enough to put us at a higher risk of thyroid and cancer, says the report. High levels of chemicals were found in white bread and less in multi-grain breads

Your daily bread could contain toxic chemicals, such as Potassium Bromate and Potassium Iodate, that can lead to thyroid disorders and cancer, the non-profit Centre for Science and Environment, or CSE, said after conducting a series of tests in the capital.

Shockingly, these substances are banned in many countries, but not in India due to slack food regulations, says the report by the CSE. The Union health ministry has ordered an investigation into the matter.

What the CSE says

For the study, CSE tested 38 bread samples that are sold in Delhi and found residues of Potassium Bromate and Iodate in almost all the commonly consumed varieties.

It must be noted that Potassium Bromate is classified as a category 2B carcinogen (possibly carcinogenic to humans) and is banned in most countries. Potassium Iodate, on the other hand, contributes to thyroid-related diseases. CSE has asked for an immediate ban on these two chemicals.

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The study, conducted by CSE’s Pollution Monitoring Laboratory (PML), says the chemicals are used by bread manufacturers for treating flour(baking) while making bread. The PML tested 38 commonly available branded varieties of pre-packaged breads of popular fast food outlets from Delhi.

“We found 84 per cent samples positive with potassium Bromate/Iodate. We re-confirmed the presence of Potassium Bromate/Iodate in a few samples through an external third-party laboratory. We checked labels and talked to industry and scientists. Our study confirms the widespread use of Potassium Bromate/Iodate as well as presence of Bromate/Iodate residues in the final product,” says Chandra Bhushan, deputy director general, CSE and head of the CSE lab.

The study findings

"Just two slices of bread every day is enough to put us at a higher risk of thyroid and cancer," Chandra Bhushan, Deputy Director, CSE. High levels of chemicals were found in white bread and less in multi-grain breads.

This is what the study found, as reported by the Hindu:

  • 84 per cent (32/38) samples were found with Potassium Bromate/Iodate in the range of 1.15-22.54 parts per million (ppm).
  • 79 per cent (19/24) samples of packaged bread, all samples of white bread, pav, bun and ready-to-eat pizza bread and
  • 75 per cent (3/4) samples of ready-to-eat burger bread tested positive.
  • High levels of Potassium Bromate/Iodate were found in sandwich bread, pav, bun and white bread.
  • Products of Perfect Bread, Harvest Gold and Britannia were those with higher levels.
  • No residues were found in all four tested products of Defence Bakery (Whole Wheat Bread, Jumbo Slices Brown, Brown Bread, Multigrain), one out of four samples of English Oven (Sandwich Bread) and one out of two samples of Nirula’s (burger bread of Chatpata Aloo Burger).
  • Only one brand – Perfect Bread – labels use of Potassium Bromate.
  • No maker among those tested labels Potassium Iodate. Only Britannia denied use of Potassium Bromate or Iodate.
  • Products of all five popular multinational fast food outlets selling pizza and burger were found positive with Potassium Bromate/Iodate. These include KFC, Pizza Hut, Domino’s, Subway and McDonald’s. Except Domino’s, others have denied use.
  • Samples of two other fast food outlets — Nirula’s and Slice of Italy — also tested positive for Potassium Bromate/Iodate.
  • Slice of Italy have denied use of the chemicals.

In 1999, the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) classified Potassium Bromate as possibly carcinogenic (cancer causing) to humans. It was found to cause tumours of the kidney, thyroid and cancer of the abdominal lining in laboratory animals, says the report.

Continue reading to know more about what the report says!

The EU banned its use in 1990 and so did the UK Subsequently, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, China, Sri Lanka, Brazil, Nigeria, Peru and Columbia also decided to ban its usage.

“Globally, Potassium Bromate was allowed to be used on the assumption that the Bromate residues would not be present in the end product. This assumption failed across the world. Residues were being detected even after reducing the allowed limits of use and therefore, countries started banning it. Our study confirms that residues of Potassium Bromate are present in bread sold in India,” Mr. Bhushan points out.

Reacting to the CSE report, Health Minister JP Nadda said, "I have told my officials to report to me on an urgent basis. There is no need to panic. Very soon we will come out with the (probe) report."

On behalf of the bread industry, the All India Bread Manufacturers Association gave a statement, saying it was yet to see the CSE report. But it added that "Food safety and Standards Authority of India's regulations permit the use of Potassium Bromate and/or Potassium Iodate at 50 ppm Max for bread and at 20 ppm Max for Bakery purpose".

The same additive, the statement read, "is considered safe and is widely used in advanced countries like the US ".

(With inputs from NDTV and The Hindu)

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