The Nasty Carcinogen Lurking in Your Bread

Few food items conjure goodness and comfort like baked goods. But, like most popular foods, manufacturers have bastardized any nutritional value by augmenting bakery products with synthetic ingredients that serve no other purpose than to enhance a corporation’s bottom line. And new research found that the addition of one artificial ingredient known as potassium bromate, is of particular concern.

A new study published by the Environmental Working Group (EWG) found that 86 popular breads, pizzas, pastries and cookies contain potassium bromate. While the chemical sounds like a beneficial mineral (potassium), it’s not. It’s a synthetic chemical that is added to flour to strengthen the dough, encourage it to rise higher than it normally would and give the freshly-baked bread an appealing color. The state of California lists potassium bromate on its Proposition 65 list of established carcinogens. The chemical is banned in many countries around the world, including: the United Kingdom, Canada, Brazil and the countries that make up the European Union. But, in the United States, California is the only state to take any measures to warn people of the serious health dangers of this chemical.

These countries classify potassium bromate as a recognized carcinogen and link the ingredient to kidney tumors, mesotheliomas (testicular and other cancers) and thyroid gland tumors. The thyroid gland is a butterfly-shaped gland situated at the front of your neck and is responsible for regulating your body’s thermostat, metabolism and other essential functions.

But the synthetic ingredient goes beyond cancer to damage the body’s own genetic material (known as “genotoxic”), which is a factor in cancer and many other serious illnesses depending on the specific genes that become damaged. It has been shown in research in the journal Chemico-Biological Interactions to cause breakage in DNA strands resulting in genetic damage.

A study published in the journal Environmental and Molecular Mutagenesis found that potassium bromate also causes significant damage to microscopic components of cells that are responsible for breaking food down into useful components to ensure our cells are replenished and strong. Potassium bromate damages this essential process required for health.

The EWG study found that many popular brands of breads, pastries and doughs contain this toxic ingredient, including Hormel Foods breakfast sandwiches, Weis Kaiser rolls and French toast, Goya turnover pastry dough, and over eighty others. The EWG published a full list of the 86 different bread and pastry products that were found to contain potassium bromate.

The food industry has claimed for years that the ingredient transforms during the baking process into one that does not cause cancer (converted from potassium bromate to potassium bromide); however, tests showcased in the journal Food Additives and Contaminants revealed over two decades ago that potassium bromate is detectable after baking. So, there really is no excuse for its continued use in the U.S.

I took a look at Goya Foods’ website and found many nutrition articles showcasing how the company’s products can be made into health food options, but the company seems to be missing the point: its products, like those of many others on the EWG list, contain a gene-damaging, cancer-causing ingredient that has been banned, for good reason, in many places around the world. Just because you can add beans or vegetables to its pastries and doughs doesn’t make them healthy options. First things first: get the carcinogens out. And surely the makers of the other 85 products on the list can handle what bread and pastry manufacturers in Europe have already done: remove toxic potassium bromate from their baked goods.


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Siyus Copetallus
Siyus Copetallus3 years ago

Thank you for sharing.

Nimue Pendragon

One more reason I'm glad I don't live in the US where the FDA approve things that no one in their right mind would eat.

Chr Karstens3 years ago

One of the reasons why as a European Union citizen I'm not too happy about TTIP - the EU is a lot stricter on things like this ...

Sarah Hill
Sarah Hill3 years ago

We, the people. need to start boycotting companies who sell us unhealthy products.

Jim Ven
Jim Ven3 years ago

thanks for the article.

Nikki Davey
Nikki Davey3 years ago


Carole R.
Carole R3 years ago

Thanks for posting.

Christel K.
Christel K3 years ago

From Wikipedia:
"Although banned for use in foods by many countries, in the USA Potassium bromate is typically used as a flour improver (E number E924). It acts to strengthen the dough and to allow higher rising. It is an oxidizing agent, and under the right conditions, will be completely used up in the baking bread. However, if too much is added, or if the bread is not baked long enough or not at a high enough temperature, then a residual amount will remain, which may be harmful if consumed."

So, bake it (properly) or forbid it.

Jaime Alves
Jaime Alves3 years ago

Noted, thanks.

Marie W.
Marie W3 years ago

bread and pastry manufacturers in Europe have already [removed]

WTF is wrong with USA?