India's health ministry has been forced to launch an inquiry into cancer-causing chemicals found in Delhi's bakery products. The fears were sparked by research that found traces of potassium bromate and potassium iodate in 84% of bread samples collected in Delhi.
A number of countries have already banned the use of both potassium bromate and potassium iodate, including countries in the European Union. However, India is one of the countries that continues to use both chemicals in certain bakery products.
India's Health Minister JP Nadda said: "I have told my officials to report to me on an urgent basis. There is no need to panic. Very soon we will come out with the report."
The research was released by the Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) in Delhi on Tuesday May 24, who collected 38 samples of bread from retail stores, bakeries and fast-food restaurants in the city. They have warned about the use of these chemicals food additives and have pointed to a number of studies that suggests bromate is a possible carcinogen and should be banned by the government.
A statement from the CSE noted: "Considering that [potassium bromate] can cause cancer, is banned in most parts of the world, and has healthy alternatives, there is no reason why this chemical should be allowed, specifically where residues are found to be present in the end-product."
CSE has said that an immediate ban needs to be put in place to ensure that the chemical is no longer used in flour for bakery products. Furthermore, they raised the alarm about the chemicals being used in foods such as ready-to-eat burger bread and ready-to-eat pizza bread, which don't have any labelling.
However, India's All India Bread Manufacturer's Association (AIBMA) has denied the widespread use of potassium bromate. Treasurer Sudeep Ahuja told the Economic Times: "Majority of Indian bread manufacturers do not use potassium bromate. We are going to present our point of view soon."
According to Ahuja, some companies do use the bromate chemical to increase the shelf life of bread, but he added that the ingredient is also used widely is US breads and that it was not harmful. China, Brazil and Canada are among the countries that have banned the chemical.