Categories: Editorial

Making The Bread Safe

The state Food and Drugs Administration will on Monday release the report of its findings on whether the Goan bread was free from cancer-causing potassium bromate and thyroid-causing potassium iodate. The state FDA sprung into action following a study by the Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) which found potassium bromate in 38 samples of popular bread brands in Delhi. The CSE findings were disturbing to Goans who have been traditionally eating Pav almost daily. The state FDA is testing bread samples from various bakers, patisseries, cafes and grocery stores. The All Goa Bakers Association has denied its members were using harmful additives, adding that the local ‘poders’ (bakers) were unaware of such chemicals. Goan bakers make bread using yeast which was not harmful. Besides, they make bread twice or thrice a day, not storing it for a long time, thus ruling out need for any preservatives.
The All India Bread Manufacturers Association has declared that it was “voluntarily withdrawing” the use of potassium bromate as additive for treating flour. This is a clear admission that they were using potassium bromate, which has been declared by health authorities as class 2B carcinogenic. This additive is banned in many parts of the world but not in India; so Indian bread manufacturers have been using it. Globally, use of potassium bromate was allowed on the assumption that its residues would not be present in the end product. This assumption failed as residues were detected in the end product; hence its use was banned. The CSE study confirmed that residues of potassium bromate were present in bread brands sold in New Delhi. Bread manufacturers in other states too are presumably using potassium bromate as well as potassium iodate.
Following the report of the CSE, the governing body for food safety in the country Food Safety and Standards Authority of India Act (FSSAI) has said that the use of potassium bromate would be stopped. The FSSAI authorities are still examining the usage and influence of potassium iodate in the bread manufactured across the country. The central and state food authorities need to be vigilant and ensure that anything that could cause harm to the health of the people was not allowed to be used in the manufacturing of bread for it is a daily consumption and the cumulative effective could be extremely hazardous to health. People are generally unaware of the contents of the food they eat and hence periodic awareness campaigns should be conducted to warn them of harmful contents. It is rather strange that some of the manufacturers, including reputed brands, have chosen to deny that they were using these harmful food additives despite the fact that the analysis by third party laboratories also confirmed presence of potassium bromate or iodate or both. How could potassium bromate or potassium iodate be present in their products if they are not using it? The manufacturers owe an honest explanation to the consumers. Blanket denials would not serve the purpose and people would look at their products with suspicion if they are not honest.
The state FDA’s quick response showed its awareness of the deep concerns the CSE report caused among the bread consumers in the state. The FDA picked up samples on its own without waiting for any directives so as to promptly find out whether the bread being sold to Goan consumers contained any harmful additives or preservatives or not. This is a good sign as the department acted in time for the well-being of the people. The FDA should be lauded for immediate intervention. As the local bakers as well as large manufacturers have denied using harmful chemicals or preservatives, the only way we can find out the truth is through tests. There is a possibility that the local breads may come out clean but it is always better to ensure that they were fit for consumption and clear any doubt that people might have on the quality of the food they consume. The FDA, which has been proactive to ensure that quality food was sold in the state should carry out analysis and inspection regularly and not wait for any non-government organization to publish its study to check the quality of food. Surprise inspections periodically would send warning to food manufacturers and sellers that the FDA was watching what they make and sell. The department should also guide small food manufacturers on safety measures they need to take in food preparation. The FDA must also keep checking the food such as bread manufactured in other parts of the country and being sold to Goan consumers for their safety standards.


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