84% Bread samples diagnosed positive for cancer in CSE’s study


A study conducted by Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) on Monday, unveiled a fact that found disease contracting chemicals potassium bromate and potassium iodate in 84% of bread samples that were procured from 38 common varieties, including ‘pav’, buns, and ready-to-eat burger and pizza breads of renowned fast-food eateries. The first of the two chemicals is a category 2B carcinogen that can perhaps cause cancer and the second is avowed to initiate thyroid disorder.

In the making of bread, Indian manufacturers use potassium bromate and potassium iodate for treating flour, said the study. Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI), India’s leading food regulator, does not forbid these two chemicals.

Reacting to the CSE report, Health Minister J P Nadda said: “We are seized of the matter. 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.” 

The study was conducted by the Pollution Monitoring Laboratory (PML) of CSE between May 2015 and April this year.

The test reported that the concentration of potassium bromate/iodate was the highest in white bread, buns and pav, all variants of the white bread category. It ranged from 22.5 parts per million (ppm) to 11.52 ppm. For brown bread, the gamut is between 8.16 and 1.15ppm.

The Indian regulators have not defined any limits for its usage in final products, however, it is 50 ppm in dry flour, the intermediate product.

In a reaction to the study, the food companies that were named in it have denied the usage of the two chemicals.

Spokespersons for Britannia, Jubilant FoodWorks, McDonald’s India, KFC and Subway said in separate statements that their products were duly in compliance with safety regulations.

McDonald’s India said the CSE’s complaints are “completely baseless”, while KFC claimed their food to be “absolutely safe for consumption”.

FSSAI said it is in the process of overhauling standards. “We are in the process of revisiting our old standards, this is a humongous task and may take some time. Our new standards do talk of potassium bromate, but it may take some time before the standards are revised and made operational,” said an FSSAI senior official, on the request of anonymity.

By Isha Kulkarni

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