An Investigation Into The Health Dangers Of Potassium Bromate In Bread

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Bread is an important source of food in Nigeria. It is consumed extensively in homes, restaurants and hotels. Bread is made from low protein wheat. It usually contains several ingredients that would help improve the quality ofthe bread. Some of the basic identified ingredients, apart from flour are table salt, sugars, flavors and at least a flour improver such as potassium bromate (Vicki, 1997).
The major challenge in both flour milling industry and bakeries is the baking quality of flour, which is determined by the capacity of the dough prepared from it to retain gas. As a result of wide variations in the composition of flour, various treatments and supplements conditioning agents (flour/bread improvers) are added for strength during mixing, extensibility for molding and also to increase loaf volume and texture. Over the years, several improvers have been used but studies have shown some to be deleterious to health, thereby necessitating their ban. The use of potassium bromate has been a common choice among flour miller and bakers throughout the world because it is cheap and probably the most efficient oxidizing agent. It acts as a slow oxidizing agent throughout the fermentation proofing and
baking process affecting the structure and the rheological properties of the dough. As a result, many bakeries use potassium bromate as an additive to assist in the raising process and to produce a texture in the finished product that is appealing to the public.
Potassium bromate has adverse effect on health and its health effects are divided into two categories. The first category deals with effects related to non cancer effect.
This includes its effect on the nutritional quality of bread. It degrades vitamins A2, B1, B2, E and niacin which are the main vitamins available in bread (IARC, 1999).
Studies (IARC, 1999) have shown significant differences in essential fatty acid content of flour treated with bromate or in bread made from flour containing bromate.
In humans, potassium bromate can cause cough and sore throat when inhaled (Atkins, 1993). Abdominal pain, diarrhea, nausea, vomiting, kidney failure, hearing loss, bronchial and ocular problems, are some of the other non cancer health problems associated with ingestion of potassium bromate (Atkins, 1993). In the second category, numerous studies have revealed the potential of potassium bromate to cause cancer in experimental animals and in humans (CSPI, 1999; Watson, 2000). In bromate as bread improver has been banned (Ekop et al., 2008; In Nigeria however, some bread makers/bakeries have continued to include potassium bromate in their bread.
Furthermore, a preliminary survey revealed that some other materials employed in bread making (e.g. water) and the environments where these bakeries are located are not free from contamination by heavy metals such as lead. It is against this background that this investigation was undertaken in eastern part of Nigeria where bread consumption is very high and where many of the bakeries are located in the midst of slums and squartments. This study therefore is aimed at assessing the safety of bread being marketed in the Nigerian market.

Following the harmful effects potassium bromated posses on consumers, the harmful substance was banned in 1993 by the Federal Ministry of Health. Potassium bromate (KBrO3) is an oxidizing agent that has been used as a food additive, mainly in the bread-making process. It has been demonstrated that potassium bromate induces renal cell tumors, mesotheliomas of the peritoneum, and follicular cell tumors of the thyroid. In addition, experiments aimed at elucidating the mode of carcinogenic action have revealed that potassium bromate is a complete carcinogen, possessing both initiating and promoting activities for rat renal tumorigenesis.


The main aim of this study is to investigate into the harmful effects of potassium bromated in bread. Specific objectives of the study are:

  1. To analyze the effect of potassium-bromate in bread.
  2. To examine the toxicity of potassium bromated in bread bakery.

In-order to achieve the stated objectives above, the researcher formulate the following research questions:

  1. What are the effects of potassium bromated on bread?
  2. What is the level of toxicity potassium bromated posses in the production of bread?

This study will help enlighten the masses as well as bread consumers on the harmful effects of potassium bromated. The study will sensitize readers on why they used help fight against bakery owners that still use potassium bromated as an ingredient in the production of bread.


The study covers the effects of potassium bromated and its harmful effects on human health using samples of bread from Enugu state in Eastern Nigeria. The researcher could not cover a wider area due to financial and time constraints.

However, there were some constraints that impinged on the research, these are;

  1. Financial constraint:         The cost of sourcing information and collecting samples of bread was quite on the high side, which included visiting various small businesses in the various towns that made up the local government.
  2. Time Constraint: The limited time frame given to achieve the research was also a constraint to the study.

Bread is a staple food prepared by baking a dough of flour and water. It is popular around the world and is one of the world’s oldest foods.
Flour is a powder which is made by grinding cerealgrains, or other seeds or roots (like Cassava). It is the main ingredient of bread, which is a staple food for many cultures, making the availability of adequate supplies of flour a major economic and political issue at various times throughout history

A tumor as a synonym for a neoplasm(a solid or fluid-filled [cystic] lesion that may or may not be formed by an abnormal growth of neoplastic cells) that appears enlarged in size.
Potassium bromate is produced by passing bromine into a solution of potassium hydroxide. An industrial electrolytic process is used for large scale production.

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