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The European population has a well-established reputation for their fondness for bread.
From French baguettes to Italian focaccia. However, one key ingredient is conspicuously absent from their loaves: Potassium bromate. Some food makers in the United States use a chemical compound to strengthen dough, which is believed to be a carcinogen and banned for human consumption in Europe, China, and India.
Over 100 food products in the United States still contain potassium bromate, despite numerous countries banning it due to its potential health risks. According to Professor Erik Millstone, an expert on food additives at the University of Sussex, there is evidence that the chemical may be toxic to human consumers and could even initiate or promote the development of tumors. He notes that European regulators take a much more cautious approach to food safety than their U.S. counterparts.
Including potassium bromate, the U.S. permits a variety of chemicals and substances that Europe has banned due to health concerns. These include titanium dioxide (also known as E171), brominated vegetable oil (BVO) (E443), azodicarbonamide (E927a), and propylparaben (E217).
According to Professor Erik Millstone, an expert in food additives with almost 50 years of experience in researching food and agriculture science, it is highly probable that a majority of Americans remain oblivious to the presence of harmful chemicals in their everyday food intake. He suggests that many Americans assume that if a product is available in a store, it must be safe to consume.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA)
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) asserts that all food additives must undergo pre-market evaluation and adhere to regulations that require conclusive evidence of their safety at intended levels of use before they can be introduced into food products. The agency also notes that post-approval, its scientists continue to review new information to determine whether there are safety questions and whether the use of such substances is no longer safe.
Stacy McNamara, an American expat residing in London, asserts that her experience of raising her children in the U.K. has served as an eye-opener regarding the types of ingredients permitted in American food. She has no plans to move back to the U.S. and says that food safety was “for sure” a part of that decision.
While the FDA maintains that when used properly, potassium bromate converts into a harmless substance during food production, it acknowledges that not all of the compound used in any given recipe may convert during the production process. The agency does, however, utilize control measures to minimize the amount of potassium bromate in final products.