I wasn’t at all surprised by the revelations about potassium bromate in our daily bread. I’ve heard more than a few commercial bakers say that they would never let their families eat the bread they baked; because, they said, they knew of the use of bromates in sliced bread.
Of course, the debate will continue whether the chemical is indeed a carcinogen and bread manufacturers will cite the US where it’s a permitted additive. It’s pretty similar to the use of MSG with the how-much-is-too-much question still unresolved. However, wouldn’t you say that if there’s even a modicum of doubt about the safety of a food additive it is better to err on the side of caution? After all, food, as one concerned chef told me, is the only thing we buy and ingest. It’s not the same as purchasing apparel, gadgets or even automobiles whose safety seems so much bigger a priority for us.
So, bread makers – whether multi-national brands or neighbourhood bakeries – must now ensure that the daily loaf is free of chemicals suspected of being hazardous to our health. My concern for food safety extends beyond factory-manufactured products to encompass the food that restaurants dish out. Today, with the urban lifestyle dictating that more people eat out or order in than cook at home, restaurants, central kitchens and food delivery business are playing an increasingly significant role in the wellness of their customers.
Given that I get to see up close the goings-on in restaurant kitchens, I’d say there’s huge scope for focusing not just on making food taste good, but also safe, healthy and nutritious. If a customer is ordering your dal makhni twice a week, you should, perhaps, consider reducing the amount of transfat-heavy margarine that goes into it. Yes, some restaurants use margarine in the ‘makhni’. Sure, running restaurants is a business just like any other and profit is the motif. But because, as I mentioned before, diners ingest what these businesses purvey, the onus is on restaurants to ensure that they aren’t masking unhealthy ingredients and cooking practices with their idea of ‘taste’.
It may seem like overreaching optimism, but I dream of a time when restaurants will, indeed, make healthy, local, fresh ingredients and salutary cooking practices their focus and philosophy. Surely, such goodness cannot go unrewarded.