Weekly Current Affairs

Cancer-causing chemical found in bread samples from Delhi [Prelims]

  • A new report released by the Centre for Science and Environment warns that daily bread we eat could contain cancer-causing chemicals, including Potassium Bromate and Potassium Iodate , substances that are banned in many countries, but not in India due to slack food regulations.
  • The use of Potassium Bromate – classified as a category 2B carcinogen (possibly carcinogenic to humans) – is banned in most countries. Also, Potassium Iodate, which contributes to thyroid-related diseases, was found.
  • The group has now recommended an immediate ban on these two chemicals.
  • Indian bread manufacturers use Potassium Bromate and Potassium Iodate for treating flour while making bread.
  • In 1999, the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) classified Potassium Bromate as possibly carcinogenic (cancer causing) to humans. It causes tumours of the kidney, thyroid and cancer of the abdominal lining in laboratory animals.
  • Considering Potassium Bromate as a ‘genotoxic carcinogen’, the JECFA (WHO/FAO Joint Expert Committee on Food Additives) in 1992 said that “use of Potassium Bromate as a flour treatment agent was not appropriate”. The EU banned its use in 1990 and so did U.K., Canada, Australia, New Zealand, China, Sri Lanka, Brazil, Nigeria, Peru and Columbia also decided to ban its usage.
  • Under ideal baking conditions, Bromate converts into Bromide which is harmless. However, this does not seem to happen in practice. While there is not much labelling required on non-packaged fast foods, pre-packaged products have to disclose the flour treatment agent used.