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Why American Bread could be Dangerous

Making bread is usually a simple process of baking a mixture of flour, water, salt and yeast. Commercial production of bread takes this a few steps further in order to make the process more efficient, among other reasons. Commercial bread making, depending on the brand and country, can follow any of the following processes, with the first two being the most prevalent [1]:

  • Bulk Fermentation Process ( BFP)
  • Chorleywood Bread Process (CBP)
  • Activated Dough Development (ADD)
  • Straight Dough Method
  • Delayed Salt Method
  • Sponge and Dough Method (S&D)
  • Ferment Dough Process

The commercial production of bread also uses a few types of additives, which can be classified as follows [2]:

  • Oxidants / reductants – aids development of the gluten network
  • Emulsifiers – softens the crumb and condition the dough
  • Hydrocolloids – improves crumb structure and texture
  • Preservatives – prevents the growth of moulds and bacteria

In this article, we’re mainly concerned with the first class of additives – oxidants, of which Potassium Bromate is a key member. This chemical is added to bread to ultimately make it fluffy, soft and white [3].

It would be good to keep in mind that commercial brands respond to what we as consumers either demand or are happy to accept. Our obsession with all thing soft, easy to chew, whiter than white and so on, causes industry to respond accordingly. It’s easy to blame brands, but perhaps we should look within too.

Optimally, when the baking process is completed, the final product should be complete free of Potassium Bromate, which ought to have been converted to Potassium Bromide, a harmless substance. That isn’t always the case, as this conversion, and the amount of Potassium Bromate residue, depends on multiple factors, including original amount added, baking time and baking temperature among other factors [3].

Why are we concerned with Potassium Bromate? Because it has been shown to be linked with cancers of the thyroid, kidney and other locations [3][4][5][6][7].

Who is at risk? Those eating mass produced bread made in the US, typically fast foods among others.

How can you avoid this? Look for the additive ‘potassium bromate’ or the phrase ‘bromated flour’ on the food label. If it’s there, don’t buy/use it. If you’re in California, products with this chemical must carry an additional warning on their labels [3][8].

Is all American bread unsafe? Quite a few smaller, independent bakeries have chosen not to use this additive [3]. You’ll not only be supporting small businesses with high quality produce, but also be eating better.

What about other countries? India banned the use of potassium bromate in 2016. It’s use is also banned in the European Union, Argentina, Nigeria, Canada, South Korea, Peru, Sri Lanka and China among others. [8]

References:

  1. How bread is made – production methods
  2. Food Additives and Processing Aids used in Breadmaking
  3. The Truth About Potassium Bromate
  4. Long-term in vivo carcinogenicity tests of potassium bromate, sodium hypochlorite, and sodium chlorite conducted in Japan.
  5. Toxicity and carcinogenicity of potassium bromate–a new renal carcinogen.
  6. Protective effects of Sonchus asper against KBrO3 induced lipid peroxidation in rats
  7. Dose-related enhancing effect of potassium bromate on renal tumorigenesis in rats initiated with N-ethyl-N-hydroxyethyl-nitrosamine.
  8. Potassium Bromate

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