Potassium bromate is a powerful oxidizing agent that ages flour and enhances its elasticity causing bread to rise and become white , fluffy and soft. Underneath this visibly fluffy look lies an invisible danger of cancer and other damages to the organs of the human body.
According to the International Agency for Research on Cancer, potassium bromate has been classified as a category 2b carcinogen and has been banned since 1992 by the World Health Organisation (WHO) and also by government agencies in Nigeria.
The National Agency For Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC) has been in the forefront of the fight against the use of this chemical in bakeries and has been regulating bakers and millers in Nigeria. Some bakeries still operate illegally and some are still using this chemical despite the four- point safety standard given to bakers of bread and flour millers by NAFDAC.
We spoke to Dr Abubakar Jimoh, Director, Special Duties and Media, NAFDAC, on the steps being taken by the organisation in the fight against the use of this chemical and about other issues in the industry.
NAFDAC is responsible for regulating and controlling the manufacture, importation, exportation, advertisement, distribution, sale and use of food, drugs, cosmetics, medical devices, chemicals and packaged water in Nigeria, what has the agency done lately in regulating and controlling the production of bread in Lagos. Some bakeries are springing up in unhygienic locations and some are still using bromated flour?
Bread is a major food on most tables in Nigeria, both the rich and the poor, young or old eat one form of bread or another , virtually every day. Bakery is a very strategic sector of the Nigerian economy and NAFDAC being in charge of the regulation of the quality of raw food, processed food, drug, chemicals, medical devices ,detergents and packaged water that the people consume, we are giving special attention to the issue of regulation of the quality of bread because we do realize that we have to constantly keep the master bakers on their toes because if any wrong substance is ingested by the people it will be terrible.
There have been a concern on the issue of Potassium bromate. Since the establishment of NAFDAC and over the years, we have continued to monitor the industry especially as far back as 1992 when the World Health Organization banned potassium bromate. Nigeria is a member of WHO and has through the effort of the Federal Ministry of Health been fighting this battle before NAFDAC took over the battle. NAFDAC has the mandate to enforce the ban.