Bromated Flour – Conditioning Bread with Carcinogens?

Have you ever paused to read the list of ingredients on the label of the bread you buy? Sounds superfluous, right? It has to be either whole wheat flour or enriched wheat flour. Or a healthy mix of wheat flour with oats, corn, or rye. Can it be anything else? As a matter of fact, yes! Look out for Bromated flour in the ingredients, Potassium Bromate, specifically. tells you why it is better to have bread without bromated flour.


Let’s start from scratch. A loaf of bread which is a staple food across the world appears quite simple. In reality, however, this humble bread houses a staggering structure of molecules called Gluten that hold it together. But two gluten molecules bind to each other only when a bridge forms between them as a result of oxidation. Natural oxidation that happens with ‘aging’ of flour and exposure to oxygen is a time consuming process.

Enter Potassium Bromate. This chemical is a powerful oxidizing agent which chemically ages flour much faster than would the elements. Potassium Bromate improves the elasticity of the dough by making its network of molecular bridges strong. It results in the formation of those tiny, delicate-walled bubbles as the bread rises. Little do we realize that it does so, only for its safety standards to fall! The final product obtained is the soft, fluffy and abnormally white bread that we all love and relish.

So, what’s wrong with using Potassium Bromate? There is nothing wrong at all. If the temperature of the oven is high enough and the baking process itself is thorough, Potassium Bromate gets converted to Potassium Bromide which is a harmless byproduct, and all would be well. Bromate residues that are below 20ppb are considered safe. But this is the ideal case scenario. Very often, this harmful additive is found in much greater quantities in the final product. It is a matter of grave concern, for Potassium Bromate is a proven carcinogen.

Then, why do bakers use bromated flour at all? Fast lifestyles, need for quick food and a growing chain of fast-food joints have led to an unprecedented demand for bread and baked goods. Using Potassium Bromate dramatically reduces the ‘rising’ time. But experiments conducted on animals in laboratories have shown increased incidence of benign and malignant tumors in the thyroid and the lining of the abdomen. Countries like UK, Canada, Brazil and the EU have banned its usage as an additive in food.

King Arthur Flour, Bob’s Red Mill, Gold Medal, and other brands sold at Whole Foods are all flour without Bromate. In fact, Whole Food black lists the chemical as an unacceptable ingredient for food. Many big national bakeries have stopped using bromated flour for their baked goods five years ago. Best foods Inc., Pillsbury, and Pepperidge Farm are some of them. As more and more consumers become aware of the dangers that Bromated flour poses to our health, the demand for responsibly baked goods will increase…

Rest assured that will certainly ‘rise’ to the occasion and sieve the marketplace to identify more such manufacturers of healthy and bromate-free flour and baked goods… Let’s raise a toast to healthy baking!

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