If bread forms a staple at your breakfast table or if you are heavily invested in stocks like Britannia or Jubilant Foodworks, it was a rather traumatic Tuesday for you. For most common news savvy citizens glued to the TV screen making those shocking revelations, it was literally a bolt from the blue. But is all that scare justified.
My first question about the report released by CSE is the basis on which they havecome to the conclusion. According to the CSE report, 84% of 38 commonly available brands of pre-packaged breads, including pav and buns, tested positive for potassium bromate and potassium iodate, banned in many countries as they are listed as “hazardous” for public health. My question is what are the samples that were used are limited to a select area in Delhi.
The second question that I want to ask is about the source of carcinogen. As was discovered after the entire Maggi fiasco, more lead was perhaps found in the onion that was one of the components than the actual chemicals used. It is common knowledge that in many parts of India the chemical content of the soil is pretty questionable, be it Lead, Arsenic or other life threatening chemicals. Even the drinking water sometimes is not portable. In that case was there an effort to figure out the mineral component and toxic levels of the wheat flour that was used. Are organisations like CSE and the Govt bodies responding to such complaints taking constructive steps to lower the toxic content in food grains, drinking water and vegetables? Isn’t that way more important than bread?!
Another doubt that I have in mind is the fact that the The food safety regulations of 2011 permit up to 50 parts per million (ppm) of potassium bromate and/or potassium iodate in bread. In most allied bakery products, it is 20 ppm for the two additives and these chemicals are considered potentially carcinogenic. The actual outcome is still debatable and even the CSE authorities are unclear on it.
My next question is the said ‘potassium bromate’ is not banned in a huge country like the Unites States of America with a fairly active Food & Drug Regulation Authority. So would it be fair to conclude that the lives of the millions staying there are equally endangered like ours , afterall the bread consumption there is at least 10X of what we have in India. Some of the bread samples used by CSE including KFC, Dominos and McDonalds run successful stores globally and the material is sourced centrally in most of these cases. Therefore am I to believe that these companies are flouting these food safety norms globally and countries across the world choose to keep quite even if I am assume Indian authorities are passive on the issue?
The fact is though the CSE’s concern might be relevant the methodology and the source of the questional potassium bromated is highly debatable. The effort on the Govt should not end with just ticking potassium bromated of the food additive list. Constructive efforts to deal with soil pollution and lowering the toxic content in food grains, fruits, vegetables and drinking water is no doubt the need of the hour!