Assocham slams NGOs for 'scare-mongering' over bread

The Associated Chambers of Commerce and Industry (Assocham) on Tuesday came out strongly in support of bread makers in the harmful additives controversy, saying the use of potassium bromate is with ''full knowledge'' of food regulator FSSAI.

Ir termed the research findings about the presence of 'hazardous' chemicals in bread as ''scare-mongering'' by non-government organisations.

''The NGOs are free to be watchdogs, but they must realise that their reports and findings should not be targeted only at the industry while the government is trying to move towards ease of doing business by relaxing the inspector raj, the NGO policing may many times harm,'' it said.

Drawing a parallel in the Maggi controversy, the chamber suggested that India should not be left to ''scare-mongering by NGOs''.

 ''An impression has been created as if the entire lot of bread manufacturers is deliberately causing risk a similar thing had happened in the case of Maggi noodles which finally returned to the market but not without several hundreds of crores of rupees of loss to the manufacturers,'' Assocham secretary general D S Rawat said.

According to a report by the Centre for Science and Environment (CSE), nearly 84 per cent of 38 commonly available brands of pre-packaged breads, including pav, buns, and pizza bases, tested positive for potassium bromate and potassium iodate, banned in many countries but not in India.

The Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) on Monday said it has decided to remove potassium bromate from the list of permitted additives while it is examining evidence against potassium iodate before restricting its use. (See: Top Indian bread, pizza brands have dangerous chemicals: study).

''If at all there is a problem, it does not lie at the door of the industry, which only would be put to immense loss of consumer confidence and crores of rupees worth of loss. Already, reports suggest a sharp fall in the sale of morning breads and a sense of panic among the homemakers,'' Rawat added.

The use of potassium bromate, purported to be harmful to health, was done with the permission and full knowledge of the food regulator, the industry body said.

The CSR study prompted the union health ministry to order a probe as bread samples of virtually all top brands in Delhi reportedly contained cancer-causing toxins. Rawat felt that the health ministry and FSSAI should immediately come out with a clarification on the bread controversy.

''If needed, the manufacturers should also engage with the regulator and consumers, giving them confidence,'' he added. ''As it is, the stock prices of the food companies have come under pressure out of panic.''

In its report, CSE claimed that while one of the chemicals is a category 2B carcinogen (possibly carcinogenic to humans), the other could trigger thyroid disorders, but India has not banned the use.