Harmful ingredients in bread
A team of three teachers from the Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology (BUET) and North South University initiated the study. The researchers conducted laboratory tests on 21 bread samples collected from four districts.
Bangladesh Standards and Testing Institution (BSTI) permits 5 milligram potassium bromate maximum in 1 kilogram of bread. The study finds excessive potassium bromate in 67 per cent of the bread samples. The additive is applied to make the bread rise and easy to shape. Many countries in the world have already banned use of this chemical agent in food manufacturing.
BSTI director (license) Md Sajjadul Bari told Prothom Alo that BSTI cancels license of a bread factory and fines it with Tk 100 thousand (one lakh) for using excessive potassium bromate. “Actually BSTI examines bread samples before renewal of the license. So far, we have not traced excessive potassium bromate in any bread brand registered with BSTI. We will take legal action if there is any violation of law,” Sajjadul said.
Bangladesh, along with the global community, has observed World Food Safety Day today, Monday. Although the government did not host any event, several non-government organisations held virtual seminars to mark the day.
The research team collected bread samples from Mirpur, Mohammadpur, Rampura, Kalabagan, Keraniganj, Siddheswari, Purana Paltan, Dhanmandi of Dhaka; Narayanganj, Jhenaidah and Mymensingh districts. The samples were tested at the BUET lab.
Member of the research team, Abu Bin Imran, also a chemistry teacher at BUET, told Prothom Alo, “Bread is popular food among all people. This food needs to be safe. Quality of bread is strictly maintained in most of the countries. Persistence of the cancerous potassium bromate in breads now has become a concern in Bangladesh.”
The study report says that bakers in the developed countries use particular yeast to make bread the bread rise. The expensive yeast is mixed with flour and the dough kept to rise for few hours.
Previously in Bangladesh, India and some other countries, bakers used baking soda to make the bread rise. The bakers, however, started adding potassium bromate to the dough since 1990s. The toxic agent is cheap and effective to make soft and give it a nice colour.
Professor of food technology and rural industries at the Bangladesh Agricultural University, Md Abdul Alim, also a member of Bangladesh Food Safety Authority, told Prothom Alo, “We have found persistence of potassium bromate and unsaturated fat in breads and other bakery products. A strict law will be enacted to control use of such hazardous chemicals in the popular food like bread.”
In last two decades, the United Kingdom, Germany, Japan and other developed countries banned use of potassium bromate in baking bread.
In 2016, private-run Centre for Science and Environment in India found presence of potassium bromate in breads of 25 popular brands. Later, the Indian government intensified surveillance over the bread factories.
A Nigerian research organisation has also found that 82 per cent of the country’s bread factories use potassium bromate.
The Bangladeshi research team has recommended that the BSTI monitor the bakeries in regular basis to check use of potassium bromate and fine the law violators. Therefore, they suggested the bakers to use Vitamin C powder, egg, sauces and other organic agents as the best alternative to potassium bromate.
Talking about the issue, Dhaka University’s food and nutrition science professor Nizamul Hoque Bhuiyan told Prothom Alo that use of hazardous chemicals in baking bread is a serious crime. “This crime goes on unabated thanks to some greedy officials of BSTI and bakery owners. The government must be strict in this regard,” he said.
*This report appeared online and in print editions of Prothom Alo, has been rewritten in English by Sadiqur Rahman.