Scores of Baked Goods Contain Possible Cancer-Causing Additive

WASHINGTON – A new analysis by Environmental Working Group has found potassium bromate, a possible cancer-causing food additive, in 86 breads and other baked goods, including such well-known products as Hormel Foods breakfast sandwiches, Weis Kaiser rolls and French toast and Goya turnover pastry dough.

The analysis, titled Potassium Bromate: Was Your Bread Baked with Flour Containing a Possible Cancer-Causing Additive?, details the potential health problems associated with potassium bromate. EWG first brought attention to this ingredient in November 2014 when it released its Dirty Dozen Guide to Food Additives, which highlighted 12 additives to avoid.

Potassium bromate is added to flour to firm up the dough, help it rise and give the finished bread an appealing white color. It has been linked in animal studies to cancer and development of tumors. Research has also shown that it can damage genetic material in human liver and intestinal cells, causing “breaks in DNA strands and chromosomal damage,” according to EWG’s analysis.  

“In light of the evidence showing its potential harm to human health, it’s alarming that companies continue to use potassium bromate in their breads and other baked goods,” said Nneka Leiba, EWG’s deputy director of research and co-author of the report. “With our new analysis, we hope to shine a light on this unnecessary additive and pressure companies to find better ingredients for their products.”

EWG analysts determined the number of products containing the harmful additive using Food Scores, an online tool that provides ratings and other information on more than 82,000 foods and 5,000 ingredients. Click here to see the full list of foods with potassium bromate.

EWG is today launching a consumer petition to urge food manufacturers to stop using potassium bromate.

Because of the health concerns linked to the chemical, a number of countries have restricted or banned its use in food. California, the only state that regulates potassium bromate, requires a warning label on food containing it.

“We urge consumers to exercise caution with potassium bromate and avoid it whenever possible,” said Jose Aguayo, EWG database analyst and co-author of the analysis. “Until companies stop using potassium bromate, you should check EWG’s Food Scores to find food that doesn’t contain this potentially cancer-causing chemical.”

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