The Food Safety & Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) has decided to remove the now controversial additives, potassium bromate and potassium iodate, which are allegedly used in the manufacturing of breads in India, from its list of approved additives. The move was made in wake of a study report published by Centre for Science and Environment (CSE), a Delhi-based NGO, that pointed out, 84 per cent samples of the bread tested, were found positive with potassium bromate/iodate.
However, the industry has reacted sharply to the reports published by CSE questioning the NGO’s locus standi. According to the industry, media trial should not happen and there should be independent evaluation of the subject. A delegation would also meet FSSAI officials.
CSE earlier had said, use of potassium bromate, classified as a category 2B carcinogen (possibly carcinogenic to humans) – is banned in most countries. India still allows its use while, use of potassium iodate in making bread is also banned by many nations because it can contribute to thyroid-related diseases.
The study was conducted by CSE’s Pollution Monitoring Laboratory (PML), which stated that Indian bread manufacturers use potassium bromate and potassium iodate for treating flour while making bread.
Questioning the motive of the NGO, D V Malhan, senior VP, Bakers’ Society, stated, that the NGO should reveal what test it conducted, what equipment it used, what protocols used for the analysis and were they according to the protocols set by the FSSAI, and what were the parameters used for the purpose of testing? “It could be a doctored analysis report. The FSSAI has permitted the use of these additives and set parameters. What happened to Maggi, we shouldn’t forget,” he said. He added that the mentioned additives were not used in all bakery functions.
Ramesh Mago, president, All India Bread Manufacturers Association, in a statement said, “Food Safety & Standards Authority of India regulations permit use of potassium bromate/iodate at 50ppm for bread and 20ppm in maida for bakery. Further the same additive is considered safe and is in use in USA and other countries as well.”
Sagar Kurade, president AIFPA commented that before taking any decision on the subject, concerned industries should be consulted.
A spokesperson from Jubilant FoodWorks Ltd, said, “At Jubilant FoodWorks Ltd., we believe in, and adhere to, the highest quality standards and Indian food laws. We follow all the processes to maintain the highest level of food safety across all restaurants. We only use additives/ ingredients duly approved under Food Safety & Standards Act in all our preparations (across all our restaurants). The flour used by us is not treated with potassium bromate/ potassium iodate. We do undertake certificate of analysis/ undertaking from all our flour suppliers on no use of potassium bromate/ potassium iodate in our flour supplies. We also carry out regular assessments of the flour to ensure compliance in this regard.”
D S Rawat, secretary-general, The Associated Chambers of Commerce & Industry of India (ASSOCHAM), said, “The industry will surely be at fault, if it was using PM in violation of the FSSAI rules. If at all, there is a problem, it does not lie at the door of the industry, which only would be put to immense loss of consumer confidence and crores of rupees worth of loss. Already, reports suggest a sharp fall in the sale of morning breads and a sense of panic among the home-makers,”
While criticising the handling of the issue, he said, “An impression has been created as if the entire lot of bread manufacturers are deliberately causing risk to the public health. A similar thing had happened in the case of Maggi noodles which finally returned to the market after an effective court intervention, but not without several hundreds of crores of rupees of loss to the manufacturers.”
According to ASSOCHAM, if India had to scale up its food processing industry, it cannot be left to scare-mongering by NGOs. “The NGOs are free to be watch dogs, 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.”
Rawat said that the health ministry and FSSAI should immediately come out with a clarification on the bread controversy. If need be, manufacturers should engage with the regulators and consumers giving them confidence. “Or else, immense loss of goodwill and financial loss would be caused. As it is, the stock prices of food companies have come under pressure out of panic.”
Meanwhile, FSSAI is said to be examining evidence against the two additives. It is learnt that the FSSAI has already initiated the study into the role of the two additives into food processing and while it has decided to remove potassium bromate from the list, it would examine the functionality of the other substance to ascertain the food safety aspect.