Major manufacturers of bread and baked goods still use potassium bromate, a potential cancer-causing additive, according to a new analysis from the Environmental Working Group (EWG).
The report found that 86 products, including Goya turnover pastries, Hormel Foods breakfast sandwiches, and Weis Kaiser Rolls, contained the additive.
“In light of the evidence showing its potential harm to human health, it’s alarming that companies continue to use potassium bromate in their breads and other baked goods,” said Nneka Leiba, EWG’s deputy director of research and co-author of the report. “With our new analysis, we hope to shine a light on this unnecessary additive and pressure companies to find better ingredients for their products.”
Potassium bromate is added to flour to firm up the dough, help it rise, and give the baked goods an attractive white color. Research published in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives found that the additive may cause cancer in rats, as well as chromosomal damage to the liver and intestinal cells.
The EWG determined which products contained the ingredient using its Food Scores database. The database, which can also be downloaded as an app, includes 82,000 products and 5,000 ingredients. Questionable additives and contaminants like arsenic, mercury, as well as dangerous additives like potassium bromate, are taken into account to give food products a safety score.
The group has launched a petition to push manufacturers to remove the ingredient from baked goods.
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“We urge consumers to exercise caution with potassium bromate and avoid it whenever possible,” said Jose Aguayo, EWG database analyst and co-author of the analysis. “Until companies stop using potassium bromate, you should check EWG’s Food Scores to find food that doesn’t contain this potentially cancer-causing chemical.”
Potassium bromate is already banned in a number of countries, including Canada and the United Kingdom. In 1991, California declared that products containing the ingredient must carry a warning label, and as a result most bakers in the state have switched to flour that’s free of the ingredient.
Currently, potassium bromate is considered safe by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, though the agency has asked manufacturers to voluntarily stop using it.
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