What the heck is bromate? That is the question I asked myself while staring at flour labels in the grocery store.
Never bromated. Is that something I want? I decided to come home and do some research.
Bromate (potassium bromate) is a slow-acting oxidizer added to flour in order to strengthen dough (thereby reducing mixing times) and create higher rises in bread while in the oven, also known as oven spring. Bromated flour means that the flour has been enriched with potassium bromate. Some commercial bakers use bromated flour because it yields dependable results, and it makes a stronger, more elastic dough which can stand up to bread hooks and other commercial baking tools.
Without much work, I was able to learn on several government health websites that the use of bromate has been linked to cancer in laboratory animals. In theory, the bromate should bake out of the dough as it cooks, but if any residue does remain, it could be harmful, especially after repeated consumption.
In many countries (even China!), bromated flour has been outright banned. The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has ruled bromate a carcinogen (cancer-causing agent). But, the US Food and Drug Agency (FDA) hasn’t banned its use, just encouraged bakers to voluntarily stop using it. Some flour producers have switched their additive to ascorbic acid, which has similar properties without the potential health risks.
Now a number of baked good companies and retailers have stopped using bromated flour, but some public health agencies recommend that consumers avoid bread, rolls, doughnuts, cakes, and other baked goods that list potassium bromate or bromated flour as an ingredient.
If you know me, you know that I bake a lot. My husband and I go through quite a bit of flour every year. This information has made me decide to only buy flour that does not contain potassium bromate and to read food labels and avoid the ingredient. I am curious to know if any of my readers share my concern.