Ingredient Profile #6: Potassium Bromate

The flour you’re eating just may have more than flour inside of it.  Say hello to potassium bromate, the ingredient being profiled this week.  The processed food industry and the bakery aisle of your local supermarket have long been incorporating this food additive into the flour that they bake with for three main reasons (Aguayo):

  1.  Flour enriched with potassium bromate enables the actual baked good or bread product to expand more in the oven, and thus rise to its full potential (Aguayo).
  2. This additive alters the physical appearance of bread and baked goods by giving these foods a more appealing and appetizing coloration (Aguayo).
  3. When potassium bromate is coupled with flour, the dough of bread and baked goods become less fragile and delicate.  This results in a more consistent, well built dough for manufacturers to then bake (Aguayo).

Over a decade and a half ago, the International Agency for Research on cancer publicly announced it is likely and probable that potassium bromate leads to the acquisition of cancer.  Unfortunately, the usage of potassium bromate is still perfectly legal in the United States, unlike numerous places across the globe.  Interestingly, Canada, the European Union, the United Kingdom, and Brazil do not permit potassium bromate to be incorporated in their food products.  Research demonstrates that animals who consume potassium bromate are more likely to develop malignant tumors, particularly in their thyroid and kidneys (Aguayo).

The American processed food industry stands strong in their conviction that potassium bromate is altered and changes to potassium bromide (which does not lead to the acquisition of cancer) through exposure to heat during the baking process.  Nevertheless, the United Kingdom conducted extensive research in order to test this hypothesis, and they discovered that a food product’s exposure to heat during the baking process does not eliminate potassium bromate in totality.  For instance, all six of the unwrapped breads that the United Kingdom experimented with and approximately one third of the wrapped breads still contained a substantial amount of potassium bromate following the baking process.  Although no mandatory labeling laws have been enacted in the United States concerning potassium bromate, the state of California has taken it upon itself to create its own legislation surrounding this food additive.  The Californian Proposition 65 list includes potassium bromate, and as a result, all goods that are made with potassium bromate are required to have a cautionary message on the product, detailing information about its link to cancer.  For all of those that do not hail from the Golden State, the fastest and most foolproof way to determine whether or not the bread and baked goods you consume are created using potassium bromate is to check the ingredient label (Aguayo).

Time and time again, it appears as though the United States is far behind other countries in enacting legislation to promote and protect the health of its citizens and also appears somewhat unwilling to educate the public about the food that it consumes.  Why do you think that this is?  Who is responsible for the current lack of food legislation and food education in the USA: the government, the food industry, or the citizens who either don’t want to know or don’t do anything about it?  I can’t wait to hear your thoughts!

Until Next Week… Plan Well, Pack Well, Live Well,

Katie 🙂

Works Cited

Aguayo, Jose and Leiba, Nneka. “Potassium Bromate.” ewg. Environmental Working Group, 14 Oct. 2015. Web. 18 Oct. 2015. <http://www.ewg.org/research/potassium-bromate>

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