The government is set to ban potassium bromate as 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.
A Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) study had found nearly 84 per cent of 38 commonly available brands of pre-packaged breads including pav and buns, testing positive for potassium bromate and potassium iodate, banned in many countries as they are listed as “hazardous” for public health.
It claimed that while one of the chemicals is a category 2B carcinogen (possibly carcinogenic to humans), the other could trigger thyroid disorders but India has not banned their use.
Nadda said he has directed the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) to take the matter seriously and submit a report at the earliest.
“I have told FSSAI to take the matter seriously and submit the report. They are coming out with a report. The Ministry will take appropriate action accordingly. We will take action as soon as the report comes,” Nadda told reporters.
“Potassium bromate is one of 11,000 food additives that are allowed in food business. After careful consideration, the Food Safety Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) has decided to remove potassium bromate from the list of permissible additives,” FSSAI CEO Pawan Kumar Agarwal said.
The regulator has recommended removal of potassium bromate from the list of permissible food additives to the Health Ministry.
On the notification, Agarwal said, “As far as issue of notification is concerned the FSSAI has already sent the recommendation to Ministry of Health and it would be issued by the Ministry and there it may take a week or two.” After the removal of potassium bromate from the list its use as food additive would be banned, he said.
Industry body Assocham, however, on Tuesday came out strongly in support of bread makers, saying the use of potassium bromate is with “full knowledge” of FSSAI and termed the research findings about presence of ‘hazardous’ elements in bread as “scare-mongering” by NGOs.
“The NGOs are free to be watchdogs, but they must realise that their reports and findings should not be targeted only at the industry... While the government is trying to move towards ease of doing business by relaxing the inspector raj, the NGO policing may harm many times,” it said.
Drawing a parallel to the Maggi controversy, the chamber suggested that India should not be left to “scare-mongering by NGOs”.