Rising Health Concerns of Bread

The cut loaf of bread with reflaction isolated on white

Most people never even read the ingredients on the packages of bread.  If they did take the time to read them they would find that flour and water had become buried somewhere down the list.

They would find many long chemical names that they did not understand, and probably would not want to.  For consumers, ignorance seems to be bliss when it comes to the ingredients in our daily bread, but there is one that has come under fire recently that you need to know about.

Potassium bromate is a food additive used in the commercial bread-making process.  Flour is treated with potassium bromate.  This ingredient makes the dough tougher, allowing bakeries to cut down on mixing time.  The ingredient is only necessary to speed up the lines so that they can produce more units of bread.  Potassium bromate is completely unnecessary in the making of bread, except to increase profitability of the bakery.

The bad news is that potassium bromate has been demonstrated to induce tumors in several parts of the bodies including the renal system, peritoneum and thyroid. The link between potassium bromated and certain mesotheliomas demonstrates a dose-response, which means that the potential to develop cancer through ingestion is directly related to the amount consumed.  Potassium bromate has been banned in food products throughout Europe and the UK.  Canada, Sri Lanka, China, Brazil, and Peru have also banned this carcinogen from their foods.

The United States has not banned potassium bromate from foods, but some manufacturers have voluntarily stopped including it in their products.  Some manufacturers still use it in a portion of their products. Due to a loophole in US labeling laws, potassium bromated does not have to be listed separately on the food label. The reason is that it supposedly all breaks down in the baking process. However, test reveal that trace amounts are still present in the finished product. Potassium bromated is not eliminated by the body and builds up over time. The FDA does not require labeling if the concentration in the finished product is no more than 750 parts per million. Even this small amount can be harmful over time because of the body’s inability to eliminate it.

The only way to know if the bread that you consume has potassium bromate is to read the labels.  Potassium bromated is not limited by brands because some manufacturers use it in some products but not in others.  Of course, there is always the option of making your own bread, but here again you still have to read the ingredients in the flour.  Some flours, particularly bread flours, contain high amounts of potassium bromate to give you results similar to those found in bakery produced bread.  At present, the only way to avoid potassium bromate is to read the labels of the foods that you buy and choose those that do not have it.


Baking bread is fun.  How many of you bake your own bread, or have in the past? 

Let us know how it went.