There goes my daily bread…
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 email@example.com.