Trending – Potassium Bromate
Recently we've seen concerns around potassium bromate make headlines. In this post, we look at potassium bromate safety.
What is potassium bromate, and where do I find it?
Potassium bromate is an oxidizing agent that improves dough. We use this ingredient in bread doughs and other baked goods. However, when properly baked/heated, limited, if any, potassium bromate residue remains in the baked product.
What does potassium bromate do?
Breads and baked goods need strong gluten proteins to trap gasses and rise properly. Strong gluten bonds develop during the oxidation process. Potassium bromate oxidizes dough quickly, efficiently, and economically (1).
Potassium bromate improves the essential qualities of bread and baked goods by interacting with the core ingredients:
- Starches: enhances gelatinization, consistency, and swelling
- Proteins: helps improve physical properties like volume and structure
- Lipids (fats): helps form a protein-fat structure to improve quality.
Is potassium bromate regulated?
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulates potassium bromate as a food additive in the United States. Current regulations allow 0.0075 parts potassium bromate for every 100 parts by weight of flour used.
In other words, 75 milligrams per 1 kilogram of flour, or less precisely 1 teaspoon of potassium bromate to 800 cups of flour.
Once baked, bread or baked goods are allowed to contain up to 20 parts per billion of potassium bromate.
While billion sounds like a considerable number, it's 20 parts per billion of 1.
20 parts per million = 0.000020 of 1
20 parts per billion = 0.000000020 of 1
Is potassium bromate safe?
Current research shows that potassium bromate doesn't cause harm in humans when consumed in properly heated baked goods and bread at normal levels (1,2).
However, when researchers gave rodents significant doses of potassium bromate, they found the ingredient can be mutagenic (harms DNA), cytotoxic (harm cells), and carcinogenic (cause cancer). Animals were given doses between 60 − 500 mg/kg of body weight to show harm. In other studies, rodents were given drinking water containing potassium bromate at 15-500 parts per million.
Humans do not regularly consume potassium bromate at the doses and exposure levels that lead to adverse health outcomes in rodents.
Why is potassium bromate banned in the European Union and other countries but not the United States?
As discussed in a prior post, many countries, including those in the European Union, rely on the precautionary principle.
The precautionary principle essentially means if there is a scientific possibility that something harmful could happen, but risk analyses have not proved that it will occur, we should still avoid taking any action or diminish operations until we can scientifically prove safety or demonstrate that the benefits far outweigh the risks of something harmful occurring.
The FDA uses a risk assessment process to determine and regulate safe levels of an ingredient.
In the case of potassium bromate, it's safe to use 0.0075 parts for every 100 parts by weight of flour and to consume residue at or below 20 parts per billion (1,2).
The good news.
Due to researchers establishing safe levels for chemical ingredients, we know we can consume baked goods containing potassium bromate without fear.