Cancer-causing chemical, potassium bromated/iodate, found in bread samples from Delhi: CSE

It says that Indian bread manufacturer’ use two chemicals, banned in many countries but not in India, being used by bread industry are potassium bromate (KbrO3) and potassium iodate (KIO3).

Created On: May 27, 2016 13:13 ISTModified On: May 27, 2016 13:20 IST

New study conducted by Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) on 24 May 2016 claimed presence of possible cancer-causing chemical in bread sold in Delhi. CSE in its recommendation asked Indian regulator FSSAI to act immediately and ban the two chemicals.

It says that Indian bread manufacturer’ use two chemicals, banned in many countries but not in India, being used by bread industry are potassium bromate (KbrO3) and potassium iodate (KIO3).

About the study and finding

The Study

• The study was conducted by CSE’s Pollution Monitoring Laboratory (PML).

• The PML tested 38 commonly available branded varieties of pre-packaged breads, pav and buns, ready-to-eat burger bread and ready-to-eat pizza breads of popular fast food outlets from Delhi.

• Presence of the two chemicals in the samples were re-confirmed through external third-party laboratory


• 84 percent (32/38) samples were found with are potassium bromate (KbrO3) or potassium iodate (KIO3) in the range of 1.15-22.54 parts per million (ppm).

• 79 percent (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 were 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.

• Use of potassium bromated, which is classified as a category 2B carcinogen (possibly carcinogenic to humans), is banned in most countries but is used in India.

• Use of potassium iodate is also banned in many nations because it can contribute to thyroid-related diseases

• 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.

• Samples of two other fast food outlets -- Nirula’s and Slice of Italy -- also tested positive for potassium bromate/iodate. Slice of Italy denied use of the chemicals to CSE.

World action on use of potassium bromate/iodate

European Union including UK: Use of potassium bromated in making of bread was banned in 1990.

• Use of the Potassium Bromate is also banned in Canada, Australia, New Zealand, China, Sri Lanka, Brazil, Nigeria, Peru and Columbia.

ECFA (WHO/FAO Joint Expert Committee on Food Additives): It in 1992 said that use of potassium bromate as a flour treatment agent was not appropriate.

The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC): In the year 1999, it classified potassium bromate as possibly carcinogenic (cancer causing) to humans. It can cause tumors of kidney, thyroid and cancer of the abdominal lining in laboratory animals.

CODEX Alimentarius: An international body which sets safety standards for food commodities formally withdrew specifications of potassium bromate in 2012 – which means the presence of bromate in food was considered unsafe and illegal for international trade.

Even after ban in several countries across the world, the food safety regulations of India allow use of potassium bromate as flour treatment agent in bread and other bakery products.

Why potassium bromated is used in bread making and how it is harmful?

• Potassium bromate is a powerful oxidizing agent, use of which makes bread fluffy, soft and gives it a good finish.

• Under ideal baking conditions, bromate converts into bromide which is harmless.

What CSE recommends

• The FSSAI should ban the use of potassium bromate in making bread with immediate effect. The Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS) should also amend relevant available standards.

• Use of potassium iodate as a flour treatment agent in breads should not be allowed by the FSSAI. The BIS should amend relevant available standards in this case as well.

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