Bread, burgers, pizzas contain cancer causing chemicals: CSE report

Bread, burgers, pizzas contain cancer causing chemicals: CSE report

9:49 AM, 24th May 2016
Bread, burgers, pizzas contain cancer causing chemicals: CSE report
Many brands of packaged bread and the bread used in ready to eat fast foods like burgers, pizzas, pavs and buns contain toxic chemicals which could probably lead to thyroid disorders and cancer.

NEW DELHI, INDIA: A new report released by Centre for Science and Environment (CSE), claims that many brands of packaged bread and the bread used in ready to eat fast foods like burgers, pizzas, pavs and buns contain toxic chemicals (potassium bromate/potassium iodate) which could probably lead to thyroid disorders and cancer.

Pollution Monitoring Laboratory (PML), a non-profit organisation of CSE said that it tested 38 commonly available branded varieties of pre-packaged bread, pav and buns, and the bread used in burgers and pizzas at popular fast food outlets like KFC, Pizza Hut, Domino’s, Subway, McDonald’s, Britannia, Nirula’s and Slice of Italy — are selling pizzas and burgers made of bread laced with toxins such as potassium bromate and potassium iodate.

According to CSE report, 84 percent of bread and bakery samples collected from across the nation’s capital contain residues of potassium bromate, potassium iodate or both. While potassium bromate is said to be a Class 2B carcinogenic, which means it may cause cancer, potassium iodate can lead to “thyroid disorders, increase the incidence of autoimmune thyroiditis and increase the risk of thyroid cancer.

Reacting to the report, union health minister J P Nadda has asked India’s food regulator, Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI), to look into the matter. He asked people not to panic. “Very soon we will come out with the probe,” he said.

The use of potassium bromate and/or iodate has been banned in several countries across the world, including Australia, significant parts of Europe, Canada and China, among others. US and India have no such ban in place, with the former asking bakers to voluntarily avoid using it, said the report.

“The highest level of potassium bromate and/or iodate was found in sandwich bread. This was followed by pav, bun and white bread. Even the average level of the residues was high in these product categories. The most bread brands do not even name the two chemicals in the list of ingredients, added the report.

The CSE recommends that the FSSAI should prohibit the use of potassium bromate in making bread and bakery products with immediate effect. Considering that it can cause cancer, is banned in most parts of the world, and has healthy alternatives, there is no reason why this chemical should be allowed, specifically when residues are found to be present in the end-product.” It suggested a similar ban for the use of potassium iodate as well.

When CSE contacted the companies whose products were found to contain potassium bromate or iodate, six out of 12 denied use of these chemicals. Except Domino’s, others like Britannia, KFC, Domino's, McDonald's, Subway, Slice of Italy have denied the use these chemicals in a response to CSE, went its press statement on the study.

Food regulator FSSAI said it has decided to remove potassium bromate from the list of permitted additives while it is examining the evidence against potassium iodate before restricting its use.

“Our study confirms the widespread use of potassium bromate or iodate as well as the presence of bromate or iodate residues in the final product,” said Chandra Bhushan, deputy director general, CSE.

“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,” Bhushan added.

He added, that 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).

On labelling of these products, CSE in an official statement said only one brand—Perfect Bread—labels use of potassium bromate and no maker (among those tested) labels potassium iodate.

Why are these chemicals used in bread?

The report says potassium bromate (KBrO3) helps achieve high rising and a uniform finish, and the potassium iodate (KIO3) is used by breadmakers as flour treatment agents. The chemicals were popularly used across the world till the late1980s and early 1990s when there was a conscious effort to minimise their use following evidence pointing towards the adverse impact on the health of consumers.

Reacting to the report

Ramesh Mago, president of all India bread manufacturers' association said, FSSAI's regulations permit the use of potassium bromate or iodate at 50 ppm max for bread and at 20 ppm max in maida for bakery purpose under food products standards. It is also pertinent to highlight the fact that this same additive is considered to be safe and is widely used in advanced countries like the US.

“At KFC, we don’t manufacture buns for our burgers. The buns are manufactured and supplied by approved vendors/suppliers as per our global quality and food safety standards. Our suppliers use high-quality wheat flour for making burger buns,” said Yum! Restaurants (India), which runs Pizza Hut and KFC to CSE.

“We only use additive/ingredients duly approved under FSSAI in all our preparations. The flour used by us is not treated with potassium bromate or potassium iodate. We do undertake certificate of analysis from our flour suppliers on no usage of these chemicals in our flour supplies. We also carry out regular assessments of the flour to ensure compliance in this regard,” said a Domino’s spokesperson.

“The claims made by CSE in its press release and report are completely baseless. At McDonald’s India, we serve our customers with the highest quality products across all our restaurants,” said Vikram Ogale, director, national supply chain and quality assurance.

“All Britannia bread products are in 100 percent compliance with the existing food safety regulations as stipulated by FSSAI. FSSAI stipulates usage of all food additives in food products within permissible limits. For these chemicals, FSSAI stipulates the permissible limit as 50 ppm max (on flour mass basis). The CSE report clearly states that the third part lab report did not find potassium bromate or iodate in Britannia bread samples,” said Britannia in an official statement.

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