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New Test For Bromate Additive In Foods

A mass spec method quickly detects trace amounts of the controversial food additive

by Elizabeth K. Wilson
July 5, 2010 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 88, Issue 27

An analytical method that quickly detects trace amounts of the controversial food additive potassium bromate has been reported by scientists at Procter & Gamble (J. Agric. Food Chem., DOI: 10.1021/jf902732e). Bromate is an oxidizing agent that is sometimes added to flour to strengthen dough and improve rising, thereby imparting consumer-appealing properties such as increased bread volume and a crumbly structure. However, traces of the carcinogenic compound can remain in products not baked thoroughly. Bromate is banned in many countries, but it’s still used in the U.S. where there is a 10-ppb limit in processed foods. In 2007, questions were raised about possible trace levels of bromate in some of P&G’s Pringles brand potato snacks in China. Although further testing showed the products did not contain the compound, “in order to have a reliable test for such questions in the future, P&G invested in the new analytical method,” notes Don Tassone, the company’s vice president for external relations. P&G researcher Francisco Arias and colleagues used high-performance liquid chromatography with mass spectrometry to examine samples of potato snacks spiked with bromate. They were able to detect bromate down to 1 ppb, an improvement over the 5- to 30-ppb sensitivity of other bromate tests for bread products.


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