Harmful bromate and iodate in bread: Bakers are ‘in the dark’

Food safety authorities have warned bakers that the use of potassium bromate and potassium iodate in the production of bread is harmful, but manufacturers say they ‘don’t even know’ which products the harmful chemicals are used to produce.

Moinul Hoque Chowdhury Senior Correspondentbdnews24.com
Published : 9 Sept 2021, 06:16 PM
Updated : 9 Sept 2021, 06:51 PM

The Bangladesh Food Safety Authority, or BFSA, recently released a public notice warning that potassium bromate and iodate were found in bread loaves and other baked goods.

The notice added that these chemicals should be removed from the production process at once and warned manufacturers and others involved in the production process of drives against them if the chemicals were found in subsequent batches.

Mohammad Jalal Uddin, president of the Bakery Owners Association, told bdnews24.com on Wednesday despite the public notice, they are not sure which of their products contain potassium bromate or potassium iodate.

“I don’t object to the authority’s decision, but we don’t know where the bromate are! We accept that bromate are harmful. But no one gave us an academic education on these topics.”

There are currently nearly 5,000 bakeries across Bangladesh. Many hundreds of thousands of people are employed there. These bakeries provide over 1 million loaves of bread to Dhaka alone each day, said Jalal.

“If we knew that bromate and iodate are present, we would of course stop using them. But we need to know where they have been detected.”

“We use seven ingredients to make our bread. If they tell us which contains bromate, we'll no longer use it.”

Officials at the BFSA say potassium bromate and iodate are used to get bread to have a fluffy texture, give it artificial colours and other such features. It is known to those involved in manufacturing as a ‘bread enhancer’, they say.

Bakery owners’ leader Jalal says he believes the initiative is simply to ‘protect the interests’ of larger companies.

"We prepare food according to the criteria set by the BSTI. We want to prepare safe food. But it wouldn’t be right to create pressure on thousands of smaller companies for the interests of larger ones.”

Small manufacturers would face great difficulties if the BSFA suddenly launched inspection drives, he said.

He urged the authority to warn them before taking such action.

A meeting will soon be held to discuss the issue, Jalal said.


Monzur Morshed Ahmed, BSFA member (public health and nutrition), told bdnews24.com on Wednesday that tests showed the presence of potassium bromate and potassium iodate in loaves of bread and other bakery goods. The use of these chemicals in food production has been banned in Bangladesh since 2016.

“Businesses and manufacturers are still using them and we have issued a warning. We will launch drives on this issue soon.”

“These chemicals have various harmful effects. We are now taking such steps because it is banned in our country and internationally as well.”

Potassium bromate can cause diseases of the thyroid gland, can cause cancer or genetic diseases and mutations. Other potential side effects include diarrhoea, nausea and abdominal pain.


Before 2016, potassium bromate could be used in the production of baked goods. Each kilogram of bread could contain up to 50 milligrams of the substance.

But then the Bangladesh Standards and Testing Institute banned its use a few years ago.

A research report by several private university professors found that potassium bromate was still being used in the production of bread.

“This substance was in use until a few years ago, but it has been banned,” Monirul Islam, a senior tester (chemicals) at the BSTI told bdnews24.com.

The BSTI will conduct its own tests to determine if the substance is in use, he said.

“We will develop a method and test samples to check for the chemical.”

“Our tests are not the same as a research report. We will conduct our tests independently. We hope to have the results soon.”

[Written in English by Shoumik Hassin]