Citizens' Issues
3 Myths & Facts about Your Daily Bread

With the Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) study highlighting most of the Indian breads laced with potassium bromate or iodate that damage human heath, people are wondering what bread to eat and what not to. In November 2014, Moneylife did a cover story on food to highlight usage of additives in processed foods and how it affects your health. While laws are designed to safeguard the consumer, most laws are implemented poorly in India, compromising your safety. And this continues, unchecked. 

In its study, the CSE tested 38 commonly available branded varieties of pre-packaged breads, pav and buns, ready-to-eat burger bread and ready-to-eat pizza breads of popular fast food outlets from Delhi and found 84% samples positive with potassium bromate or iodate. 
 
Potassium bromate or bromated flour is used as an oxidising agent in baking. It makes the bread rise better, gives it a uniform consistency, making it unnaturally whiter and fluffier. It also makes the baking process faster. Wraps, rolls, bread crumbs, bagel chips and flat breads contain potassium bromate. This additive becomes bromide in breads an excess of which is linked to iodine enzyme metabolism, which weakens the thyroid and kidneys. The potassium bromate that is not broken down remains in the baked item and is carcinogenic. 
 
In 1999, the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) classified potassium bromate as possibly carcinogenic (cancer causing) to humans. It was found to cause tumours of the kidney, thyroid and cancer of the abdominal lining in laboratory animals.
 
The European Union had banned its use in 1990. The United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, China, Sri Lanka, Brazil, Nigeria, Peru and Columbia have also banned the use of potassium bromate.
 
Myths & Facts about Your Daily Bread

Authentic breads are originally from Europe and the quality of baked products there are unmatched the world over. Unfortunately, many Indian bread manufacturers have given these breads a complete unhealthy makeover to suit the consumer’s palate and extend its shelf life though a number of food additives. Here are some myths about what we look for in our bread and the alarming truth about what really goes into the so-called healthy breads of India.

Myth 1: Softer is better

Ever been to a local baniya shop and seen consumers literally feel the bread for softness before purchase? One would think that they’re checking a pillow for its fluffiness! According to them, the softer the bread, the fresher and better it is.

Truth: Soft bread does not mean good bread. Surprised? Listen to this. To make the bread soft, the baker increases sugar content and adds harmful chemical additives and emulsifiers. They are called ‘volume enhancers’ or ‘softeners’ like potassium bromate, azodicarbonamide and even include harmful GMO emulsifiers which are banned in European countries.  
 
Quite contrary to the Indian mindset, in Europe, the crustier the bread, the better it is considered. When bread is soft (by adding chemicals & increasing sugar content), it lacks the nutritional value of denser, crustier bread and is unhealthy to consume. Soft breads do exist in the European market as a variant but they are made without the addition of artificial softeners.
 
Myth 2: The browner your brown bread, the more fibre it has 
 
Nowadays, every bakery caters to the health conscious consumer by having a separate rack of brown bread. For these consumers, the browner the bread, the more fibre it has and is seen as a healthier option than white bread. 
 
Truth: Most manufacturers in India add caramel colour to their normal bread to make it look brown. Even the caramel colour used is not natural as we would imagine (it’s made by heating ammonia). Research has proved that these colours are carcinogenic and make the breads dangerously unhealthy.
 
Check out the many types of bread marketed under premium brands that state that their major ingredient is ‘wheat flour’. Indian law allows ‘maida’ and ‘wheat flour’ to be used interchangeably. So do not assume it is ‘whole wheat flour’ unless specifically stated. In Europe, ‘brown bread’ is either authentic hi-fibre bread or the wholesome whole-wheat flour bread that derives its colour and fibre content from sources like malt flour, oats bran, wheat bran, etc. Not so in India. 
 
Myth 3: Good breads stay well for several days  
 
If you ever notice the difference between the manufacturing date and the ‘best before date’ on a bread packet, it is anywhere between five to six days. Nowadays, the fact that bread remains fresh for a longer time is a sign of technical advancement in the bakery industry. 
 
Truth: If bread remains fresh and soft for a long time, it is only because of the addition of harmful preservatives. In the bakery industry, these preservatives are mainly calcium propionate and sodium propionate, both of which are linked to ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder).
 
It is time we realise the repercussions of consuming breads with such harmful ingredients that can have dangerous long-term side effects. We are used to a particular sweet taste in our breads; this habit of ours can only increase the percentage of diabetics in our country which has been growing at an exponential rate in the past decade. Therefore, it is important that we first change our perception of what is really healthy and what is not. Our taste buds may protest initially; but, after a while, what is good for the body also feels good to our taste buds.
 
If we avoid using chemicals, there is, indeed, a chance that the bread may degenerate more quickly. So here are three tips to keep your bread fresh without using any preservatives. 
 
• Keep bread in a cool, dry place, out of direct sunlight.
• Freeze the unused portion within two days. French and Italian breads that are baked without any oils have a very short shelf life, so consider freezing them earlier.
• Allow frozen bread to thaw completely at room temperature. Heat it in an oven before serving.
 

User

COMMENTS

R Rangan

9 months ago

Most people buy bread from their neighbourhood bakeries.These are usually small operations and cater only to the neighbourhood. They do not label their product and contents and additives are not declared. Would that mean it is safer to go for branded breads of companies like Britannia etc.? Should'nt the food safety officials inspect and insist on proper labelling of the products sold by small bakeries?

REPLY

Clear Water

In Reply to R Rangan 8 months ago

As a matter of fact Britannia's bread has been found to be on the higher than average side for containing harmful carcinogenic chemicals. See the recent study conducted by CSE in Delhi. it seems like the bigger the brand the more the number/amount of harmful chemicals. And you don't know what the local bakery is putting into his bread. There is no check. All you can do is shut your brain and enjoy your processed food.

prakash nandedkar

9 months ago

an eye opener article

Ramesh Poapt

9 months ago

excellent eye opener!!! can we have something on pastry,pizza,biscuits please???

REPLY

Clear Water

In Reply to Ramesh Poapt 8 months ago

If you know what is being put into biscuits and sabudana, you will put a full stop to eating any outside/processed food. I have been to these factories and I don't touch any of these items. Also, its not harmful but, premium biscuits put worm flour to enhance their taste.

R A MURALI MOHAN

9 months ago

On reading this article, it is clear that whatever manufactured in the name of bread in India is not fit for consumption . Better we don't visit a bakery in future.

Court against Taxtortion: Bombay HC asks tax officials to follow its orders or pay penalty from their salaries
Coming down heavily on tax officials for not following its directions, the Bombay High Court in a recent judgement has said that non-compliance with its orders would result in officials paying individual penalties, including forfeiture of their salaries until they take a corrective action. The Court was hearing a case related with Larsen & Toubro Ltd, one of the country's largest engineering company and the Central Excise Department (Writ petition No2855 of 2016). 
 
"...officers after officers are reluctant to take decisions for the consequences might be drastic for them. No officer is acting independently and following judgments of this Court, but waiting for the superiors to give them a nod. Even the superiors are reluctant given the status of the assessee and the quantum of the demand or the refund claim. We are sure that some day we would be required to step in and order action against such officers who refuse to comply with the Court judgments and which are binding on them as they fear drastic consequences or unless their superiors have given them the green signal," the Division Bench of Justices GS Kulkarni and SC Dharmadhikari said in its order.
 
It said, "If there is such reluctance, then, we do not find any enthusiasm much less encouragement for business entities to do business in India or with Indian business entitles. Such negative reactions / responses hurt eventually the National pride and image. It is time that the officers inculcate in them a habit of following and implementing judicial orders which bind them and unmindful of the response of their superiors." 
 
"A copy of order be sent to the Secretary in the Ministry of Finance, Government of India and the Chairman, Central Board of Excise and Customs. We are constrained to observe as above simply because repeated suggestions to Mr (Pradeep S) Jetley (counsel for the respondents) so as to persuade the officers to withdraw the orders impugned in the petition of their own did not meet any favourable response," the Bench added.
 
The Excise Department has demanded a tax of Rs32.39 crore with interest from L&T for alleged use of common input services in the manufacture of exempted goods. L&T filed an appeal against this order before the Customs, Excise and Service Tax Appellate Tribunal (CESTAT), along with a stay application seeking waiver of the condition of pre-deposit of the remaining dues and recovery and on condition of depositing Rs50 lakh, the balance dues. The demand was held in abeyance. 
 
On 29 January 2016, an Assistance Commissioner passed an order that indirectly adjusted the amount of demand originally confirmed but stayed by the Tribunal. In short, he allowed the rebate (claimed by L&T) only to the extent of Rs3.17 crore in cash and Rs1.61 by way of credit in the CENVAT account. 
 
In its order, the Bombay HC observed that "He purported to reject the other claim for rebate and restricting it in such manner that the balance sum which could not be recovered on account of the stay granted by the Tribunal that would reach the Government coffers."
 
Disposing of the petition, the Bench said, "...we quash and set aside the impugned order. The refund claim shall now be granted and the respondent shall not insist on compliance with clause (b) of the operative order at page 21 of the paper-book. That direction and to this extent stands quashed and set aside."
 

 

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COMMENTS

Srinivas Sreeram

9 months ago

Excellent order to be implemented with immediate effect.

Pune Passport Office threatens passport holders, with a notice to explain ‘adverse’ police verification!
Over the past fortnight, hundreds of passport applicants from Pune have received show cause notices from the Regional Passport Office (RPO) asking them to re-do their police verification. While many of them have already undergone that process, RPO insists it does not show in the police records sent to it. What is more shocking is the threatening language used in these notices.
 
One of them is a young woman, Rucha Bhandare, who had got her passport in 2012. She says she had spent three hours in the police station for this verification. Noted activist Sheila Christian and her husband too stated that they had fulfilled the police verification, also in 2012, and they too have received this letter. “How is it possible to stand in the line again; my husband would be unable to go through his, due to his health.”
 
The generic letter (show cause notice) signed by Pune’s Regional Passport Officer, sent to many passport applicants, without any public awareness campaign, had sent shock waves, reads:
 
“This is with reference to a receipt of an adverse police verification report corresponding to your application of Passport issue no xxxxxxxxxxxxxxx.”
 
You are therefore called upon to provide a suitable explanation and submit a fresh application with correct details. Please note that you are required to publish a proper explanation regarding circumstances under which you had suppressed the material information in the passport application and obtained the above said passport
 
Also state why action should not be taken to impound the Passport no xxxxxx of the Passports Act 1967 and section 12 (1) (b) of the Passports Act 1967 should not be initiated against you.”
 
Generally, post-police verification is done for those who have applied under 'Tatkal' scheme where the applicant gets the passport within a week. However, the letter from RPO was sent even to those who had applied under the normal procedure. Nervous applicants have been making a beeline to the Passport Office, where they received rude treatment and no answers. 
 
When yours truly, in the capacity of Convener of the Pune Passport Grievance Forum, took it up with Atul Gotsurve, RPO, Pune, stating how the Passport Office could take people unawares and what was the explanation for sending it to applicants who have already undergone police verification. He insisted, “it (the police verification) does not show in the (RPO) records though.” So, who bungled then? The police?
 
Thereafter, the RPO issued a press release stating: “A special drive has been undertaken by the Regional Passport Office, Pune to send show cause notices to passport holders whose police verification has been received as ‘not recommended’ (Adverse). The adverse police recommendation could be for several reasons like applicant was not available for police inquiry, passport applicant gave false information, court case pending, etc.” 
 
“Adverse police report in the computer system can lead to a passport holder facing problems at some inopportune moment, e.g. if the passport holder loses the passport in a foreign country, then the Indian embassy there cannot issue him a new passport easily, because his police report in the computer system is adverse. Hence, it is better to have the papers cleared. An additional counter at the inquiry window to help the people, who have received the show cause notice has been opened at Senapati Road Passport Office, Pune.”
 
A subsequent press release from the RPO stated “After taking passport holder's response and after checking the details in the computer system, the police inquiry is reinitiated and some cases where blatant suppression of information is detected then strict action like imposition of financial penalty or cancellation of passport or lodging of FIR, or all the three actions may be taken.”
 
RTI activist Qaneez Sukhrani is not convinced with the ‘special drive’ theory.“By labelling this a ‘special drive’, the RPO is trying to divert attention from their knee-jerk reaction on discovery of irregularity in their own system, some of it, more than five years ago. If this verification was not done, then who is at default? The RPO, Police or the Passport holder? How dare RPO issue show cause notices at random to passport holders for their own and Police Department’s fault? I know several people, some of them senior citizens, who have gone into complete panic mode at being accused of ‘suppressing’ information by RPO without citing any specific reason. If I had been one of the recipients, I would have sent the RPO a legal notice next morning.”
 
When contacted, Gotsurve reiterates that, they are acting upon only those names whose police verification has not been done and says he has reviewed the tone of the show cause notice by making it more polite. “Now we are sending letters, asking them first to email their reply to our letter or then send a letter explaining their stand on the police verification. If required we will call them to the office. However, for those who have indeed suppressed information, they would not be spared,” the RPO says.
 
The fact remains, there has been no transparency regarding this issue. The Pune Passport Grievance Forum (PPGF) has requested the RPO to provide data on how many such show cause notices have been sent and put up details of this ‘special drive’ on their website, which is so interactive now.
 
 

(Vinita Deshmukh is consulting editor of Moneylife, an RTI activist and convener of the Pune Metro Jagruti Abhiyaan. She is the recipient of prestigious awards like the Statesman Award for Rural Reporting which she won twice in 1998 and 2005 and the Chameli Devi Jain award for outstanding media person for her investigation series on Dow Chemicals. She co-authored the book “To The Last Bullet – The Inspiring Story of A Braveheart - Ashok Kamte” with Vinita Kamte and is the author of “The Mighty Fall”.)

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COMMENTS

neha

6 months ago

Hi Vinita,

This is in reference to the notice recieved by the Regional Passport Office(RPO),Ranchi as we are based out of Jamshedpur(Jharkhand) stating "adverse" police verification report corresponding to the application for passport issued by my husband,dated 30/05/2011.

Could you please guide me through the next steps to get out of this problem as early as possible.It would be really appreciated and helpful as well.

Thanks in advance..

TIHARwale

9 months ago

Police verification for passport is used by police as tool for extortion. already for Govt and Public sector passport applicants passport is issued even without police verification and this has irked the corrupt police person and this the reason they file adverse report commonsense tells why policemen need to meet the applicant if neighbours confirm as witness for applicant. Pune Metro Jagruti Abhiyaan should seek info the policemen who have given adverse reports so that with data evidence rouge policeman can be identified. today public treats police as corrupt. otherday when 2 police officials were killed in Mathura public didnot come in support for police because public is helpless against criminal, politician, policeman combine. in Delhi Arvind Kejriwal won 67/70 without showing anything in Governance because one good thing he did was he cornered corrupt elements in police and aam aadmi ( common man) felt happy to see his humiliator policeman is taken to task by Arvind Kejriwal.

Sanjay Saxena

9 months ago

Another example of the high-handedness of our inefficient & incompetent 'sarkari babudom' who, even 70 years after independence, still feel they are the raja's and rest of us are still the praja, not realizing that it's our taxes that is paying their salary.

Srinivas Sreeram

9 months ago

Internal communication failures between passport & police should NOT result in passport cancellation but it should be a reason for penalizing the officials who are involved in that delay. Officials often take pretext of work load or no facilities, in such cases, the police (which is often a target) should engage other security agencies to do this service on their behalf & complete the process.

Sudhakar Ojha

9 months ago

Government departments when writing to citizens should give full details and reasoning behind the letters / notices.

Shirish Sadanand Shanbhag

9 months ago

This Police verification of Passport holders, several years after issuing the Passport is wrong. When, Passport Office sends Police verification of applicant, it gives 90 days time to Police, and even if Police Verification is not obtained after 90 days period, Possport is issued.
From time to time, Passport office conducts "Passport Adalat" to redress the grievances of passport holders. If passport office don't take Passport Adalat once a month, then affected people can ask Regional Passport Officer, Pune to Conduct it, for the affected people.
Also, then should mention exact deficiencies in the police report, and accordingly, affected people can go to concerned police station to get them Police Verification of their Passport.
Even at all Police Stations in Maharaashtra, a special Police Constable deputed for Police Verification of Passport applicants. Therefore, it will not be much porblem to redress such difficulties.
To redress any difficulties faced by citizens at Police Station, every Saturday, between 9am and 10am, ACP from different area comes to each Police Station to redress your difficulties. If you have any deficiencies in Police Verification of your Passport, you can take up your complaint to such ACP on Saturday.

Anand Vaidya

9 months ago

Another department that is infamous for send threatening letters even for routine matters - Income Tax Dept. These Lords are still in the British Era ruling over us , poor brown people.

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