Most of us grew up on roller-milled, sifted, bleached, and bromated flour. Because all the nutrients had been removed during these industrial processes, some were added back in, and the flour was labelled “enriched.” But it was only enriched because it had been so terribly impoverished.
We just learned from an article in the New York Times that two chemicals linked to cancer, potassium bromate and azodicarbonamide (ADA), are still found in many industrial flours and baked goods. Why? Because they were allowed previous to a 1958 amendment to the Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act that prohibited the FDA from approving food additives linked to cancer. The article reports that “an agency spokeswoman said that many substances that were in use before passage of the amendment, known as the Delaney amendment, are considered to have had prior approval and ‘therefore are not regulated as food additives.’” Never mind that a lot of cancer research has taken place since 1958!
Here’s an excerpt from the New York Times aricle about food additives banned in Europe but still allowed in the U.S. Topping the list are two commonly found in flour and the doughs used to make commercial breads, rolls, and other baked goods:
Potassium bromate and Azodicarbonamide (ADA)
These additives are commonly added to baked goods, but neither is required, and both are banned in Europe because they may cause cancer. In recent years, some American restaurant chains have responded to consumer pressure and removed them from their food.
Potassium bromate is often added to flour used in bread, rolls, cookies, buns, pastry dough, pizza dough and other items to make the dough rise higher and give it a white glow. The International Agency for Research on Cancer considers it a possible human carcinogen, and the Center for Science in the Public Interest petitioned the F.D.A. to ban it nearly 20 years ago. The F.D.A. says potassium bromate has been in use since before the Delaney amendment on carcinogenic food additives was passed.
Azodicarbonamide, or ADA, which is used as a whitening agent in cereal flour and as a dough conditioner, breaks down during baking into chemicals that cause cancer in lab animals. It is used by many chain restaurants that serve sandwiches and buns. The Center for Science in the Public Interest has urged the F.D.A. to bar its use.
The moral of the story? Get your flour from a farmer and a miller that you know and trust!