Wednesday, April 29, 2009

The FDA Should Ban Bromated Flour

Potassium Bromate is typically added to bread and other flours as maturing agent which promotes gluten development in doughs, making the bread stronger and more elastic. Commercial bakers use bromated flour because it yields dependable results and can stand up to bread hooks and other commercial baking tools. It is also used to render inferior flour with low protein levels more useable since these flours do not develop enough gluten on their own.

Bromate is also considered a category 2B carcinogen by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), meaning that it may be harmful when consumed. In theory, the substance is supposed to bake out of bread dough as it cooks, but if too much is added, or if the bread is not cooked long enough or not at a high enough temperature, then a residual amount will remain.

Potassium Bromate has been banned from use in food products in Europe, as well as the United Kingdom in 1990, and Canada in 1994, and most other countries. It was banned in Sri Lanka in 2001 and China in 2005. It is also banned in Nigeria, Brazil and Peru.

In the United States, it is not banned. In California a warning label is required when bromated flour is used. Some organizations such as the Center for Science in the Public Interest have lobbied the Food and Drug Administration to ban Potassium Bromate as a food additive in the United States. Instead, since 1991 the FDA has urged bakers to voluntarily stop using it.

The FDA currently permits the addition of Potassium Bromate in flour provided that its inclusion does not exceed .0075 parts for each 100 parts of weight of the flour (or 750 parts per million). These regulations are found at:

To avoid packaged foods that contain bromate, look for “potassium bromate” or “bromated flour” in the ingredient list. Bromated flour is likely to be found in your local pizza shop, but not in Dominos Pizza or Pizza Hut (though it uses bleached flour). You will also find bromated flour in Arby’s French Toastix and Burger King’s hamburger buns. It is also found in the hoagie rolls at your local Johnny Rocket Restaurant ( You may also find in your supermarket flour brands, especially Gold Medal flours by General Mills.

Whole Foods Markets lists both bromated flour and potassium bromate as unacceptable ingredients for food on its web site:

Consumers should be ever-aware of the ingredients they ingest from corporate bakers and fast food chains, and push for local legislation banning bromated flour until the FDA (and the federal government) gets its act together.