CAMEROON – Cameroon food quality watchdog has cautioned bakers defying the ban on the use of potassium bromate in the production of bread and bakery products due to its alleged possibly carcinogenic to humans.

Charles Booto à Ngon, head of the Standards and Quality Agency (Anor) issued a memo on September 19 reminding bakers of the ban on using potassium bromate in production.

Potassium bromate (KBrO3) is an oxidizing agent used as a flour “improver” that strengthens dough and allows for greater oven spring and higher rising in the oven.

However, the use of this compound has been completely banned by different countries across the globe such as the EU, UK, Canada, China, Sri Lanka, South Korea, Argentina, Brazil, Peru, and Nigeria due to its deleterious health effects.

In Cameroon, its ban was formalized by decrees from March 11, 2009, and January 6, 2000, as well as the circular from January 17, 2000, all issued by the Ministry of Industry. 

Potassium bromate (KBrO ) was first patented for use in baking bread in 1914. It takes the form of white crystals or powder and acts as a maturing agent and a flour improver (E number E924).

In 1941, the FDA approved the use of KBrO at 50 parts per million (ppm) in bromated flour, and in 1952, for its use in bread at a level of 75 ppm based on flour.

Limits were based on the expectation that the heat of the oven during baking converts bromate to a harmless bromide.

However, in 1998, the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) classified KBrO as a Group 2B meaning the chemical is possibly carcinogenic to humans.

Since then, various studies have been done on the proper use of KBrO3 in bread to ascertain the safety of the bread products and to evaluate bakers’ compliance with specified regulations.

According to Charles Booto à Ngon, some dishonest bakers make bread without having a certificate of conformity, defying legal and regulatory requirements.

In addition, Charles noted that reliable sources have revealed that bakers use potassium bromate not only to give the bread a golden color to make it more attractive to consumers but also to increase the apparent weight of the product.

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