More on flour additives

by Emily Wilson
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ONE OF YOUR READERS inquired recently about whether flour additives such as potassium bromate and benzoyl peroxide are safe (see World Grain, October 2000, page 8). Regarding potassium bromate, I just want to add a personal comment. In the early 1990s, I worked at an import/export company that traded feed and food additives, so my view on this topic is influenced by the problems arising when shipping such goods, in my case from East Asian origins.

I remember that potassium bromate was a stuff of hazardous quality, flammable or even explosive, and registered in the list of hazardous goods (IMCO, class 5), meaning that it shouldn't be shipped with other flammable material. Packing always had to be in seaworthy iron drums; polyethylen packing, the standard export packing for powdered materials, was not suitable.

I asked myself whether it was really worthwhile to use food additives that in unprocessed condition show such dangerous features. In case of an accident, it would certainly be a serious one, affecting the safety of vessels, terminals, etc.

Maybe this is an ethical question, but as a distributor of food additives, one can never be sure about the final destination of the material being traded. Perhaps it will be sold to a developing country. The argument that high temperatures when baking changes potassium bromate to potassium bromide does not convince me. Production conditions in developing countries are not as safe as in the U.S.; therefore, I would not recommend this material as an additive at all.

Potassium bromate doesn't even have a positive affect on human health, as it gives an almost artificial volume to baked food and makes them crusty. There are many similar additives that can be used as an alternative and that are easier to handle and have positive affects on human health.

In the European Community, potassium bromate has been forbidden because of its carcinogenic effects, although that has not been conclusively proven. An interesting topic for discussion would be the lack of international standardization regarding evaluation of such materials. Although pharmcopeias give a certain basis for comparisons, I think this should be a task of trade politics.

There are many more examples of additives that are allowed in the U.S. but are forbidden in the E.C. This surely puts the customers in a state of uncertainty and is, in the long run, an obstacle to further globalization of markets.

Andrea Runge

Agrimedia GmbH

Bergen, Germany