Taiwo Oludare, Ibadan

A professor of Food Chemistry has said that, in spite of ban in the use of potassium bromate in the production of bread, bakers still use the harmful chemical in baking bread.  She called on the authorities to ensure better monitoring of the ban because the use of bromate in baking bread is endangering the lives of consumers.

Professor Oladunni Akinnawo stated this while delivering the nineth inaugural lecture at Ajayi Crowther University, Oyo, Oyo State. She said the compound is added to bread dough to strengthen it, increase loaf volume, and improve the texture.

She said the compound could cause sore throat, abdominal pains, diarrhea, nausea, vomiting, kidney failure and heart failure. She revealed that studies have linked the compound to cancer in experimental animals and humans and has been classified as a potential carcinogen.

She said in spite of the banning of its usage in Nigeria since 1993, her recent study of its usage in Ibadan and Oyo towns indicated the use of potassium bromate in 72 percent of the samples used; a clear show that the compound is still in use. She called on the National Agency for food and Drugs and Control [NAFDAC], to intensify its enlightenment and enforcement of the ban.

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The professor, who teaches in the Faculty of Natural Sciences, also discouraged some contemporary food practices, saying they were generally harmful. She said studies also showed that the uncontrolled use of additives, in making snacks in fast food houses, resulted in overweight in  adults and obesity in adolescents. She said wrapping of local moin-moin in leaves, while cooking it, is better than wrapping it in nylon or other contents. She said the leaves preserve the taste and make it more hygienic.

She also advised Nigerians to diversify their food choices rather than being restricted to garri, fufu, amala and rice, as seems to be the case.  She said Nigeria is blessed with a large variety of food, about 70 crops that can serve as food items. She acknowledged that rice production has been on the rise in the country such that government has banned its importation:

“This is a step in the right direction, but rice is not the only food that Nigerians eat and need. There is need to diversify crop species for production and consumption. Emphasis should be on producing more of food crops like maize, yams, fruits, leafy fruits and vegetables. There is need to enlarge our food basket to increase most of crop species, a large variety of diets can be available to promote a good nutrition and encourage optimal health.”

The expert in food chemistry condemned the current practice of using polyethylene wrappers to steam moinmoin or make agidi, saying, “it is deleterious to health. The practice releases dioxins and other carcinogenic toxins into the food, during the process of cooking.” She made a strong case for the promotion of Nigerian diets outside the popular garri, pounded yam and fufu and the consumption of fruits.

At the end of her presentation, the Vice-Chancellor, Professor Dapo Asaju, declared that she had successfully inaugurated her chair as a Professor of Food Chemistry in the university. The inaugural chaired by Asaju was attended by many eminent scholars from the university and University of Ibadan, where Akinnawo got all her degrees.