The recent revelations by the Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) about the presence of potassium bromated in commonly available brands of bread, buns, pav buns, ready-to-eat pizza etc., has brought into sharp focus the use of additives in processed foods, and the lacunae in laws to ensure food safety.

Bromated flour, or flour containing potassium bromate, is an oxidizing agent which is used to enhance the rising of the dough, and makes the final product very fluffy and unnaturally white.

The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) classified potassium bromate as possibly carcinogenic way back in 1999, and the additive is banned in the European Union, UK, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Brazil, Peru, Columbia, Nigeria, China and Sri Lanka.

In India, several additives are added without check to the bread in order to extend the shelf-life of the product, as well as to provide the consumer what he thinks he should be looking for.

Here are three common misconceptions about the qualities of ‘good bread’:

1. Softness is goodness

The European countries understand that the opposite is usually true. To make bread soft, chemicals such as potassium bromate, azodicarbonamide and even the GMO emulsifiers which are banned in Europe are normally used. In Europe, crusty, even dense bread is considered healthier than the soft, fluffy varieties.

2. Brown is best

Brown bread is usually associated with high-fibre content, and is thus considered to be healthier than the white variant. But a close look at the labeling will show that the colour alone is rarely an indication of fibre content. Most manufacturers just use a colouring agent to make normal bread brown. The colouring agent is usually heated ammonia, which is a carcinogenic. Also, the term ‘wheat flour’ does not necessarily mean that the product contains whole-wheat flour, which, together with malt flour, oats bran and wheat bran, provide the fibre in the bread. Under Indian laws, ‘wheat flour’ could mean the refined ‘maida’ So look for the words ‘whole-wheat flour’.

3. Longer shelf-life = Better Quality

The premium brands of bread available in the market usually carry a ‘best before’ date which is five to six days after the manufacturing date. The fact that bread can stay fresh for such a long time does not mean that it has been made more ‘hygienically’ or in a better way. It just means that it contains preservatives such as calcium propionate and sodium propionate, which have been linked to ADHD or Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. In view of the above facts, it is time to revise common mindsets of what to look for when shopping for bread, and choose healthier options.

Meanwhile, here are three ways to extend the shelf-life of bread:

Store in a cool, dry place

a. Freeze unused bread
b. Allow frozen bread to thaw completely at room temperature and heat up in the oven before serving.


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