My grandmother is a passionate baker and I have watched her spend hours trying to bake the perfect bread. There was something very comforting about the sweet, smoky aroma that filled my house. I knew I never had the patience to make one, so I didn’t bother to learn. I wonder if I should have because the slice that I ate for breakfast yesterday is not what it seems, apparently.
A new report published by the Centre of Environment and Science (CSE) has given us cause for concern. CSE’s Pollution Monitoring Laboratory conducted few tests between May and June last year with bread samples collected from companies like Harvest Gold, Britannia, Le Marche, KFC, Pizza Hut, Domino’s, McDonald’s, Slice of Italy and Subway in Delhi. They tested different varieties of white bread, whole wheat , sandwich breads, pizza breads, burger buns and pavs and their results have brought two chemical additives under scrutiny. The big reveal was difficult to swallow and we decided to dig deeper and seek expert advice.
Potassium Bromate (appears as E number E924 on the label) and Potassium Iodate act as flour improvers. These chemical additives are mostly used in flours, bread and bakery products. They help hold the bread dough together and make it rise and fluffy. They are also used as bleaching agents to give bread its white look. When used under the right conditions, they may get completely used up but if added excessively or the bread is not baked long enough or at a high enough temperature, they may sneak their way as residues in the final product.
Should we be alarmed? “Potassium Bromate is being used by the industry since a long time. It was during the 1980s when health organisations and particularly WHO (World Health Organisation) recognised that it may have the potential to cause cancer. Thereafter, many studies were conducted which strengthened these claims and countries like UK, Australia, Canada, Brazil and China banned its use. As far as Potassium Iodate is concerned, it is a known fact that excess Iodine in the body can affect the functions of the thyroid gland,” shares Dr. Ritika Samaddar, Regional Head- Dietetics, Max Healthcare, New Delhi.
She adds, “Chemical residues when consumed by humans are not broken down in the body and they pass through the kidneys. This may put excessive load on the kidneys that can lead to renal tumours. They can also cause cell multiplication at a higher rate.” Another Delhi-based Nutritionist, Dr. Anshul Jai Bharat agrees and warns me that these chemicals tend to generate a lot of free radicals in the body which can initiate uncontrollable cell growth and thus, causing cancer. As a better alternative she recommends buying fresh bread from nearby bakeries.
The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) was one of the first organisations to declare Potassium Bromate as “possibly carcinogenic (cancer-causing) to humans”. According to CSE’s findings, 32 out of 38 samples tested were found with Potassium Bromate and/or Potassium Iodate residues in the range of 1.15–22.54 parts per million. Further, the labelling across the various brands was inconsistent. The use of these additives is permissible in India and in the United States up to a certain limit. The Food safety and Standards Authority of India earlier permitted the use of these addictive up to 50 ppm for bread and 20 ppm for flours and bakery products but the limits for the residues have not been defined.
Dr. Saurabh Arora, Founder of the Food Safety Helpline who has also setup two contract laboratories and a clinical research company, has another viewpoint, “Bromate is legally allowed to be used in breads and flours but it is not just present in bakery products. Bromate in drinking water was first highlighted by the WHO. It was found that Bromate is usually formed in packaged drinking water due to the reaction between ozone which is used as a disinfectant and naturally-occurring bromide in source water. This could be the case in these breads also as none of the companies have accepted that they used the additive. It is possible that the residues were formed naturally during the use of oxidizing agents. Bromate may also be formed in hypochlorite solutions produced by electrolysis of bromide-containing salt. Let’s face it, when it comes to industrial products, chemical levels can never be zero. For anything to be poisonous, it takes very large quantities to be ingested. As per WHO, the acceptable total daily intake of Bromide is up to 0.1 mg per litre per kg body weight and the residues found in bread are way below. Yet, it’s good to be aware.”
Following these reports, FSSAI has urged the government to pass a ban on the use of Potassium Bromate as a food additive while suggesting that it is ‘safe to eat bread’. The jury is still out on Potassium Iodate. I asked Dr Dipanjan Panda, Oncologist at Indraprastha Apollo Hospitals and Member of European Society of Medical Oncology, if these cancer-causing suspicions could be real, “There are Probable-Carcinogens and Definite-Carcinogens. Potassium Bromate comes under probable carcinogens and hence it’s not definite that it will cause cancer. In a Japanese research study by Kurukawa titled, Toxicity and Carcinogenicity of Potassium Bromate, it is revealed that the agent is carcinogenic in rats when given orally but there is no evidence to prove that it causes cancer in humans. There is a possibility that it may damage the DNA by releasing Bromine in the cells.”
This is not the first time the bread-making industry has been attacked. It was not long ago when Subway announced, after much controversy, that it will be removing a hazardous chemical called azodicarbonamide which was used in their bread and is also found in yoga mats and shoe soles. Dr. Harsh Dua, Oncologist at Indraprastha Apollo Hospital in New Delhi, briefly sums it up, “The causes of cancer are multi-factorial. From milk to sugarand fats to fruits and vegetables, these days everything contains chemicals in some form. It is not easy to assess the definite effects of these chemicals as most of us are exposed to them. Different chemicals may trigger different reactions in people. But it’s true that our changing eating habits and food patterns have put us at a higher risk of developing cancer than our ancestors.”
The questions lingers. Are we contaminating our body with everyday products? Triclosan, for instance. It is used as an anti-bacterial in toothpastes and is known to cause hormonal imbalances. Recently, I also figured that there could be iron filings swirling in my cup of tea– a contaminant that enters tea powder because of the way it’s processed. There are also healthier alternatives to Potassium Bromate like Ascorbic Acid and Glucose Oxidase that can serve the same purpose in bread-making. If only the chemical community would commit towards developing safer products, rather than trying to defend its right to use suspected carcinogens and cheaper alternatives.
These warnings are a reminder to unsuspecting consumers who know far too little about the long-term impact of exposure to such chemicals and contaminants. The secret world of processed foods is finally revealing itself to us. It is, therefore, of utmost importance that gaps in our knowledge are reliably filled so that we can make the best choices, especially when it’s about what you eat and where it’s coming from. Point made, I hope.
Potassium Iodate, a flour treatment agent, is likely to cause thyroid disorders according to international studies.
Thiruvananthapuram: The office of the Food Safety Commissioner in the state will launch a drive to test samples of bread, bun and baking goods. The move is in response to a report by a Delhi-based non-profit that 84 per cent of bread and bakery samples collected from New Delhi contain residues of hazardous chemicals.
The report by the research NGO, Centre for Science and Environment (CSE), says that the samples contained Potassium Iodate and Potassium Bromate in the range of 1.15-22.54 ppm. Technically this is within 50 ppm, the maximum permissible limit for these chemicals according to Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI).
Gokul V.R., holding the additional charge of Food Safety Commissioner, says, “We will wait for instructions from the FSSAI, who has taken stock of the studies. Meanwhile, we will take samples of bread and other baked goods to see if the levels of the two additives are within the current permissible limits. The data will be useful, even after regulations are changed.”
FSSAI is yet to issue a notification banning Potassium Bromate, though it has conveyed to the media that it will initiate steps in that direction. A newsletter published by FSSAI in 2012 says that a meeting of its scientific committee had recommended the ban of the chemical as an additive.
Potassium Bromate, classified as possibly carcinogenic, is banned in many countries including the UK, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and China. It is used to render a fluffier product. Under ideal baking conditions, it is converted to Potassium Bromide, but the residues prove that this does not always happen.
Potassium Iodate, a flour treatment agent, is likely to cause thyroid disorders according to international studies. Many of the companies, alleged of using the two chemicals in their products, were in the defensive. Since the study has been published by an NGO, an independent study by the Commissioner’s office will help throw light into the actual situation.
MEERUT: With widespread panic being caused following a study conducted by the Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) which reveals that nearly 84% of 38 commonly available brands of pre-packaged breads, including pav and buns, had tested positive for potassium bromate and potassium iodate, the sampling by Food Safety and Drugs Administration (FSDA) in Meerut has taken a backseat.
The authorities say that until there are instructions from the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) about sampling of breads and examining them to detect the chemicals, tests cannot be conducted. The authorities are waiting for the chemicals to be banned in India before they can start testing.
JP Singh, chief food safety officer, said, "Regular sampling checks are going on in the city but we cannot collect samples of bread unnecessarily and create panic until we have any instructions from the FSSAI. Once, potassium bromate and potassium iodate are banned as food additives, as they are banned in many other countries being listed as ‘hazardous’, we can start sampling."
The government is set to ban potassium bromate as a food additive with health minister J P Nadda asserting that it will take appropriate action following a report which claimed presence of cancer-causing chemicals in bread samples of virtually all top brands.
The CSE study claimed that while one of the chemicals was a category 2B carcinogen (possibly carcinogenic to humans), the other could trigger thyroid disorders but India has not banned their use.
Meerut has three big bread-making units and several other small units but authorities say unless instructions are issued, nothing can be done. "We are awaiting instructions from higher authorities and once we receive them, we will collect bread samples not only from bread-making units but also from outlets like Pizza Hut and Dominos, which use pizza base majorly," said Singh.
The Supreme Court will hear on May 30 a plea by the J&K Traders and Manufacturers Federation (JKTMF) challenging the state high court’s direction asking them to give an undertaking that if food supplied by them was not fit for human consumption, their units would be liable to be sealed.
An apex court vacation bench of Justice Prafulla C. Pant and Justice D.Y. Chandrachud agreed to hear the plea by the JKTMF after senior counsel Jayant Bhushan told the court that the food manufacturing and processing units have also been asked if they had food testing laboratories with qualified staff manning them.
The high court had asked the units engaged in food business that they have to be compliant of the Food Safety and Standards Act, 2006.
The J&K High Court in a suo motu PIL on April 27, 2016, order had directed the "food manufacturing/ processing units to file an undertaking before the Registrar, Judicial of the High Court certifying that the food manufacturing/processing units will supply food items fit for human consumption to the consumers, and in the event it is prima facie found that the food items are adulterated, their units will be liable to be sealed."
Telling the court that the members of the JKTMF were small time businessmen engaged in bakery, sweetshops and petty manufacturing works, senior counsel Jayant Bhushan appearing for the Federation told the vacation bench that the High Court’s direction were contrary to provisions of the Food Safety and Standards Act.
Bhushan told the court that under the provisions of FSS Act, small time business entities including petty manufacturers who themselves manufacture or sell any article of food or a petty retailer, hawker or a temporary stall holder have to be registered but need not have licence.
The bench was told that Section 32 of the Food Safety and Standards Act provides that if a food business operator fails to comply with the provisions of the FSS Act and the regulations made thereunder then he would be served with a notice asking him to improve his food items.
Bhushan said under Section 33 of the FSS Act the premises or equipment used for food business should not be shut without affording an opportunity of being heard to the food business operator.
Bhushan also assailed the High Court direction asking the owners/managing directors of the food manufacturing/processing units to tell if their units had laboratories for testing food, the equipment installed therein and the number of persons having expertise engaged there as per provision of FSS Act and the rules.
Hubli, May 25 (ANI): With over 68% of the milk in India found adulterated in a 2011 Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) study, the government is working towards providing an accurate, portable test kit. People in Hubli district of Karnataka have come up with Biosyl – a commercialised home milk testing kit for an affordable price of Rs. 50.
This kit within minutes can detect contamination of six common adulterants in milk. It is a low-cost portable system with user-friendly features. A change in colour of the milk or a change in colour of the paper indicates the presence of a contaminant. The test can detect as low a value as 0.5 per cent of the contaminant.
If you are particular about eating only naturally ripened mangoes, you can head to the Mango Mela to be organised by the Department of Horticulture at Curzon Park in Mysuru from May 27 to 29.
The mela comes at a time when concern has been expressed from various quarters over the use of calcium carbide, a chemical banned under the Food Safety and Standards Authority (FSSA) Act, for artificially ripening the mangoes.
While most food scientists and technologists have cautioned the public against consuming the calcium carbide mangoes, which has flooded the market, Senior Assistant Director of Horticulture, Mysuru, Dinesh Kumar told The Hindu that the main purpose of the mela is to ensure availability of naturally ripened mangoes, besides creating a market for the farmers.
Most middlemen and traders resort to artificially ripening mangoes with calcium carbide. “The calcium carbide will not be easily washed off the mangoes. The residual effect can cause health problems. Only naturally ripened mangoes will be available at the mela,” Mr. Kumar said.
Thirty stalls with various varieties such as Alphonso or Badami, Raspuri, Mallika and Malgova, besides the pickle variety will all be available at the mela.
The Horticulture Department, which is holding its 16th mela, had already trained mango farmers to naturally ripen the mangoes. Mr. Kumar, however, said spraying of ethylene gas for ripening the mangoes is not harmful. Ethylene is a plant hormone that aids ripening, he said.
A Mango Price Fixation Committee comprising the Deputy Director of Horticulture Basavaraj, officials from HOPCOMS, professors from the College of Horticulture, Mysuru, and a couple of farmers will meet on the eve of the mela to fix the price of various varieties.
“There will be a uniform price for one particular variety of mango. The public can buy from whichever stall they wish, but the price of one variety will be uniform across the mela,” he said.
The price will be fixed in such a manner that the farmer will get his due and the consumer will also not feel the burden.
Mango Mela to be held from May 27 to 29
Naturally ripened mangoes assured at the mela
30 stalls will be put up at Curzon Park
Raspuri, Alphonso or
adami, Malgova varieties to be sold
Not just on labs, we have failed even on basics.
The Chief Secretary has candidly admitted before the Division Bench of the State High Court the failure of the State Administration in enforcing the provisions of Food Safety Act, 2006 since the inception when the legislation came into effect. (GK 15 May). He has assured the Hon’ble Court that the State would be soon initiating action to set up two technologically advanced laboratories at Jammu and Srinagar to check the menace of food adulteration and would not wait for the transfer of funds from the Central Government for the purpose.
The Chief Secretary was personally present in the case on the summons of the High Court along with some senior officers of the State Government in a PIL filed against the State and on his assurance the Court dropped proceedings against the erring officials.
Hopefully, the assurance handed down by the CS will be carried into effect at the earliest. But, it is a sheer apathy that nothing in our State now seems to work till the Courts intervene. It has, so to say, become a regular feature that the State apparatus swings into action only when the courts are actively involved. This reflects very poorly on the officials who shy away from their assigned duties and responsibilities and whose culpable negligence is largely responsible for the suffering of the people and in the falling standards of health.
The two technologically advanced labs to be set up in place of the existing old and defunct labs will indeed ask for time even if the State accords top priority as it has promised the High Court. How about then the intervening time? The public is not expected to continue to suffer as it is now. It is widely acknowledged that the adulteration of food items is continuing on a massive scale here and no one in the authority seems to be bothered even to enforce a semblance of order. It has resultantly shaken the public faith and confidence in the Government’s ability to check this malaise.
Therefore, it is important that the Government does something to establish the supremacy of law. Thus, without waiting for the labs to come up, it is imperative that the State Administration swings into action against those involved in selling adulterated food items to the general public. That has to be done on a non-stop basis to restore semblance of order so that the general public heaves a sigh of relief.
We see a mushroom growth in hand carts all over the city selling food items like vegetables and fruits. Most of the cart sellers cut open fruits to lure public inspite of the fact that the surroundings all over the city have become highly dirty and dusty. The mammoth growth in the vehicular traffic is largely responsible for this state of affair. Given the scale of traffic mess, it is unlikely that the environment around will show any noticeable improvement.
Therefore, the officials of the department concerned need to launch a massive awareness program advising general public to desist from purchasing food items and fruits that are cut and sold in the open on carts. Simultaneously, such food items should be seized and destroyed on the spot and the sellers fined so that they refrain from repeating such acts. Similar action also needs to o be taken against shop keepers dealing in food items who show insensitivity to public health. The Department concerned may make use of audio visual aids for creating public awareness on mass scale.
It is also important that people involved in the adulteration of food items like milk are subjected to regular checks against adulteration. Not only should the substandard and adulterated milk be destroyed on the spot, but the dealers subjected to heavy fines and even imprisonment. The resolve of the Government should appear to the public firm and uncompromising. That will help changing public mind against food adulteration.
If the State Administration takes these small but significant basic steps, no wonder the public faith and confidence will be restored in its ability to cope with the situation. There is no doubt in the fact that the falling standards of health conditions are largely caused by adulteration of food items . Therefore, any action aimed at checking the menace of food adulteration will positively reflect on the health of our people. Let the basics be taken care of immediately to improve the food standard scenario. The use of sophisticated labs will then become more practicable. The need of the hour is improving the basics. The rest can always follow.
The food regulator, FSSAI, in consultation with Scientific panel and committee has finalized the framework upon which the noodles will now have to be manufactured once the regulation come into effect.
Nearly a year after Food Regulator Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) cracked the whip on Nestle Maggi for not complying with food safety norms, it is now set to come up with the first even noodle regulations, reports CNBC-TV18’s Shweta Kothari quoting sources.
The food regulator in consultation with Scientific panel and committee has finalized the framework upon which the noodles will now have to be manufactured once the regulation come into effect.
The new regulations, sources claim, will only allow wheat flour to be used for the noodles. Similarly, FSSAI will also address the concern of high Monosodium Glutamate (MSG) along with Ash content by setting up strict limits.
After it lost the case in Bombay HC against Nestle due to the lack of standardized testing and operating mechanism, the food regulator is keen on setting standards for noodles in accordance with international norms. The Food regulator will soon come up with packaging, recall and health claims and nutrition norms, in an attempt to standardize food safety norms in India.