For folks who eat bread beware. Potassium Bromide has been banned in many countries because of the link to cancer in rats Well, not the US. It has been banned in China and is illegal in the European Union, Canada, Brazil and elsewhere. Since 1914, when it was patented to be used as a food additive, bakers have been using potassium bromide in baking to speed up the process of bread rising.
Bread dough’s beige and shapeless appearance belies the staggering complexity of the molecules that hold it together. Gluten— the wheat protein infamous for its indigestible components that some people have to avoid — is the glue that binds bread dough to itself. (Gluten-free bread relies on other thickening agents such as xanthan gum).
But in order for two gluten molecules to bind to each other, molecular bridges have to form between them.
Such bridges do not form spontaneously. Rather, they’re the product of oxidation. Historically, bakers relied on oxygen in the air to form the molecular bridges in dough — they “aged” flour after milling it by exposing it to open air for weeks, and then slowly mixed the flour in the dough, all the while allowing ambient oxygen to do the hard work of bridge building. Well in our fast-paced society and fast food chains this doesn’t happen.
Potassium bromate is a powerful oxidizing agent that chemically ages flour much faster than open air. Potassium bromate bleaches dough and enhances its elasticity by strengthening its network of molecular bridges, which makes for the formation of tiny, thin-walled bubbles as the bread rises. The end product is fluffy, soft and unnaturally white.
Potassium Bromide in the bread after it is cooked becomes Potassium Bromate. Potassium Bromate according to information published by baking industry trade groups, states it is “well within the normal production control measures in any modern bakery to ensure that bromate residues are well below 20 ppb.”
However, whenever bromated flour isn’t baked for long enough or at a high enough temperature, or if too much potassium bromate is added in the first place, this harmful additive can potentially be found in the final product in far greater quantities.
Today, many small and commercial bakeries voluntarily avoid using bromated flour. However, it’s still found in many fast food buns and some flours, among other products.
Many of us who eat bread eat the good stuff, but it is a good idea to ask the baker, or always, always read the label. Best not to eat Bromated flour! Think about this the next time you eat a hamburger or hot dog at a BBQ.