Following an alert given by the Food and Local Development Organization (OADEL), lines began to move. An interministerial decree prohibiting the marketing and use of bromate-based food improvers in Togo will be formalized very soon.
Back in this big file on "Bromate case" that has raised the waves and pushed some consumers to take their distance from the bread.
Almost 30 years of ban in Europe!
Potassium bromate, recognized by many researchers as a toxic chemical has been banned since 1990 in European Union countries and very recently in Togo's neighboring countries such as Benin in 2005.
It is used to increase bread size, because the bigger the bread is, the more profitable it is. Bakers use it to make their bread to improve their income.
For various specialists, it is a slow killer because it acts on human health in a gentle way and ends up killing the consumer as he consumes bread. A real danger to public health that bread is the basis of many people's diet.
In Togo, the Societe Generale des Moulins du Togo (SGMT) used to incorporate this product into its flours. But since the banishment in Europe, the company started removing it in the fortification of its flours.
"From the moment the countries of the European Union determined that the injunction of bromate in flour was not recommended, at our level, we stopped inserting bromate in our flours," attested to agridigitale, Thomas Reynaud, General Manager of SGMT.
Bromate is a chemical additive and when used, it makes the bread rise. In addition, it improves the organoleptic quality of the bread. That is to say, the bread is golden with a large volume and crispy. Very appreciated by the consumers become addicted.
The permissible dose of bromate in drinking water is 10 micrograms per liter. To prove the toxicity of bromate, a test was carried out using drinking water. Toxicological tests were done with higher doses.
"There have been several carcinogenic effects, such as kidney tumors.There were also tumors in the thyroid.In addition to these carcinogenic effects, there were also non-carcinogenic effects.
For example, effects on the reproductive system, and the immune system," said Kwoami Dovi, Sanitary and Environment Engineer, Chief Division of Control and Sanitary Inspection at the Ministry of Health.
Therefore, SGMT, specialized in the supply of bread flour in Togo who is in permanent contact with bakers has made available to its customers, certified yeasts whose range will be expanded soon.
"If we mix some alternatives with flour and we offer improved bags, it would reduce the use-by date.We are working with the world's largest yeast to soon offer a substitute that looks a little like bromate but that will be certified totally healthy, it takes time to find this product because we want to be sure that this product represents zero risk for the population," clarified Mr. Reynaud.
Most of bread sellers encountered testify to agridigitale that since the problem has arisen in the media, it generally impacted their sale. The turnover of bread has plummeted for several weeks.
"Consumers began to be suspicious of bread, and last Sunday I went to the beach with my baguettes, people asked me if I am not tired to kill people!" Ms. Yawa Koumedjina, a bread seller testified.
They are aware!
The most exposed to the misdeeds of the offending product, it is obviously those who make daily use of it, the bakers. They inhale it, it is directly in contact with their skin. When they produce bread, they are the first to eat it with their children.
"When I heard that I was the first to be exposed, I immediately stopped using it, so my breads are no longer attractive as consumers like them, so good ladies refuse to buy from me. I barely manage to sell two 50-kg bags, whereas before I was running between 10 and 13 bags," warned Angele, responsable of the Barker's Association of Lome Commune.
ITRA confirms and proposes other substituents
The Togolese Institute of Agronomic Research (ITRA) also informed of the presence on the market of substitutes.
"We found other substitutions that we analyzed and which include vitamin C and enzymes generally used for pastry.These substituents improve the texture of the bread also allowing the digestibility of the components of the flour. For the moment, they think it is more expensive than what they use. That is why some of them are reluctant," testified Aziato Kokou, food engineer at ITRA.
Looking for high income!
Based on the explanations of Itra and the testimonies received, it is clear that it is for mercantilist reasons that some bakers continue to make use of this product decried by all.
"The bromate that cost 400,000 CFA in the 1990s costs 4,000 CFA nowadays and from a box of 250 tablets, you can raise more than 700 bags of flour," unloaded Mr. Dovi, chief division of control and sanitary inspection at the Ministry of Health.
For the moment, no study has been conducted at the Togolese Ministry of Health to link the development of any cancer to the consumption of bread. But, with the proven effects of cancer observed after the tests on rats, everyone deduce that bromate is a harmful product.
Togolese Ministry of Agriculture is also aware of the danger of the product. "The government is preparing appropriate measures," said Koutera Bataka, Minister of Agriculture at the beginning of the revelation of the case.
And indeed, all the services of the State are taking steps to clean up the sector and preserve the health of millions of consumers.
"Currently, we have reached the stage of prohibiting bromate in Togo and the interministerial decree is almost ready.The Minister of Health has already signed it.We are waiting for the signatures of the Ministers of Security and Trade for allow the customs to intercept the product at the entrance, "reassured Mr. Dovi.
Shield and punch strategy
At the level of the Ministry of Health, the shield strategy consists in giving legal tools to the level of the entries of the country. This is the reason why the interministerial decree was drawn up.
"We have already intercepted almost thirty boxes of pure bromate and a large stock of packets of tablets of bromate," said the head division of control and sanitary inspection of the Ministry of Health.
The punch strategy will be conducted at the level of bakeries and pastries.
"We have reagents that allow us to show the bromate in the flour dough or in the improvers directly. As we infiltrated the trade, we identified the wholesalers and did a job upstream. The decree that will be signed soon will allow technicians to go down to the bakeries to try to seize these products and clean up the area," warned Kwoami Dovi.
Today, bromate has been highlighted, but there are other products that these bakers use that harm the health of consumers. The technical services of the Ministry of Health want to move towards closer monitoring that will help the bakers observe good bread making practices as regards to the dosage.
"Other enhancers such as sweeteners or sugars are also used at given doses, so close monitoring will allow them to be accompanied and certified," insisted Dovi.
It is true that currently, on the cassava project, presidential initiative, training is given to bakers who are at the same time aware of the bromate substitutes available on the market.
The purpose of the presidential initiative is to get bakers and pastry chefs produce bread without using bromate.
On-going trainings allow the latter to make bread made from manioc bread flour; for example, the combination of wheat flour, breadmaking flour from sorghum or soya beans to produce bread, cakes, and delicacies with practical doses to be respected.
"The consumption of bread is already ingrained in our habits, it is almost impossible to do without it.The best solution for us is that the government formally forbids the entry of this product into the country. It would be difficult for people to accept losing their customers knowing that others continue to use it, " informed Angele.
She also suggests that the SGMT find a mechanism to return to the direct incorporation of the substitute into the flour. The interministerial decree is then eagerly awaited to put an end to the general panic observed within the population in recent weeks.