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Science Panel Disputes Charge that Bread Additive Poses Cancer Risk

New York, July 1999 Scientists at the American Council on Science and Health (ACSH) today challenged the charge by the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) that potassium bromate, used in bread to improve consistency and texture, poses even a small risk of cancer to humans. CSPI has called upon the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to ban potassium bromate on the basis of claims that the chemical caused cancer in laboratory rats.

ACSH scientists examined this allegation and found that it was only after the FDA helped to develop a more sensitive analytic method-capable of even detecting chemicals at the parts per billion level-that it became possible to detect the minuscule amount of potassium bromate in bakery items such as rolls and buns.

"Using CSPI's approach," asserts Dr. Elizabeth Whelan, President of the American Council on Science and Health, "the FDA would have to ban naturally occurring foods like mushrooms, broccoli, pumpkin pie and coffee, which also contain trace and harmless amounts of animal carcinogens."

According to Dr. Arthur Lipman, FDA's Acting Deputy Director of the Division of Petition Control, the only studies showing a clear dose-response relationship between potassium bromate and cancer were those using rats fed high doses of the chemical. This relationship has not even been found in studies using other rodents such as hamsters and mice.

Humans are not only vastly different than rodents in terms of their physiology, they face much lower, minute, exposures to potassium bromate through their diet. Dr. Lipman is not aware of any studies of humans to support the contention that typical ingestion of potassium bromate causes cancer.

"This is typical of CSPI's habit of calling attention to hypothetical health risks," adds Dr. Gilbert Ross, ACSH's Medical Director. "Such a ban would not improve health; it would only disrupt the food production system. If we acted to purge our food supply of all known animal carcinogens, including those in nature, we would literally have nothing to eat."


For more information contact:
The American Council on Science and Health
1995 Broadway, 2nd Floor
New York, NY 10023-5860


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