There goes my daily bread…

Consumer Voice - - Editor's Voice - Padma Edi­tor

De­spite be­ing a rel­a­tively con­scious con­sumer and aware of many things that can be po­ten­tially dan­ger­ous to con­sumers, I have been eat­ing and feed­ing my fam­ily a bread that has been found to con­tain car­cino­gens. Re­search/tests by Cen­tre for Science and En­vi­ron­ment (CSE) has re­vealed that 84 per cent of pre-pack­aged bread va­ri­eties com­monly avail­able in In­dian mar­kets are full of car­cino­genic chem­i­cals like potas­sium bro­mate and potas­sium io­date. For those who don’t know, car­cino­genic chem­i­cals are di­rectly re­spon­si­ble for caus­ing can­cer and can also lead to thy­roid dis­or­ders.

At present, all types of shop-bought bread we eat ev­ery day – from slices of white or brown bread to multi­grain and whole­grain ones, and from burger buns to pavs and hot­dogs – are un­der the scan­ner.

While the min­istry of health and fam­ily wel­fare has or­dered a probe based on the study to re­veal the ex­act na­ture of the threat, what wor­ries me more is the harm al­ready done and al­ter­na­tive ways to min­imise it. Is it pos­si­ble to cut off all the bread we eat ev­ery day? And let’s not for­get that most cafes and restau­rants that do not have an in-house bak­ery also use the same pack­aged breads.

The im­me­di­ate so­lu­tion that I see is to start the age-old prac­tice of bak­ing at home. It may sound like an up­hill task, but in prac­tice it is a 15-minute job if you have a good oven at home. Al­ter­nately, you may go to a trusted lo­cal baker and ask them about all the in­gre­di­ents in their breads.

One thing that some of us should have done a long time ago is to be a lit­tle more aware and proac­tive in ques­tion­ing the pack­aged food in­dus­try. I won­der why none of us never both­ered to reach out to the mak­ers of our bread and asked them about their in­gre­di­ents. At this point, I be­lieve that all pack­aged foods that are be­ing con­sumed by the com­mon man on an ev­ery­day ba­sis should be taken to the lab. Maybe there should be an open fo­rum or some mech­a­nism whereby each one of us can rec­om­mend a prod­uct for test­ing or can get a re­port on a prod­uct if it has al­ready been tested. More­over, con­sid­er­ing re­tail racks across su­per­stores are full of thou­sands of pack­ets of hun­dreds of foods and many of them for sure have never been tested for car­cino­gens, it seems like they all must be taken to a lab and cer­ti­fied ‘fit to con­sume’ all over again.

One may ask if there aren’t reg­u­la­tions to be fol­lowed by the food in­dus­try. Don’t they all have to ob­tain a li­cense from a par­tic­u­lar au­thor­ity to sell foods in the mar­ket? Well, yes. How­ever, it seems that some­where the ex­ist­ing au­thor­i­ties are not be­ing able to match pace with the in­creas­ing num­ber of pack­aged food brands. Also, there’s al­ways the pos­si­bil­ity that stan­dards/pa­ram­e­ters to grade ed­i­ble foods need re­vi­sion – many ex­perts have al­ready sug­gested that food safety stan­dards be up­graded and matched with those in the United States and Europe.

Mean­while, news has just come in that Food Safety and Stan­dards Au­thor­ity of In­dia (FSSAI) has de­cided to re­move potas­sium bro­mate from the list of per­mit­ted ad­di­tives, while it is ex­am­in­ing ev­i­dence against potas­sium io­date be­fore re­strict­ing its use. FSSAI has also stated that it will soon re­search upon all the per­mit­ted ad­di­tives and see if they are fit for con­sump­tion. Un­til then, and maybe for al­ways, let’s be a lit­tle more con­scious and keep shar­ing what­ever in­for­ma­tion each one of us have about ‘un­safe’ foods among friends and fam­ily. In case you think there’s a food item that must be taken to the lab, write to us at ed­i­to­rial@con­sumer-voice.org.

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