Tesco bread in paper bag

Azodicarbonamide, a foaming agent that is mainly used in the plastics industry, is currently banned in the UK and EU

The government is under pressure to keep so-called ‘yoga mat additives’ also used in bread flour from making their way into UK bakeries and supermarkets.

Chemical substances commonly added to baked goods in the US – and also used in industrial production of plastic goods like yoga mats – are at risk of being sold in the UK if the government decides to remove an EU law banning the harmful additives at the end of the year.

EU legislation currently bans the use of azodicarbonamide and potassium bromate in bread. However, it is unclear whether the UK will keep that law after the proposed ‘sunset’ for retained EU legislation on 31 December. 

“Our worry is the government is gearing up to declare open season on protections that people and organisations over the decades have fought hard to secure, preserve and improve,” said Real Bread Campaign co-ordinator for food industry organisation Sustain, Chris Young.

The additives are currently banned from being used in cereal flour and bread baking by the EU, UK and Australia over concerns they are harmful to humans.

However, they are allowed and commonly found in baked goods in countries like the US, China and Brazil, and could potentially make their way to UK supermarkets without the protection of EU legislation post-Brexit.

“Speaking hypothetically, who in the UK would want our kids eating white sliced laced with azodicarbonamide or potassium bromate simply because lifting the ban greased the wheels of an overseas trade deal?” Young said.

He added that Brexit had “presented a valuable opportunity to update and improve legislation for the benefit of small businesses at the hearts of our local communities, and for the rest of us as food buyers”.

“Protection of everyone’s right to have the chance to make better informed food choices needs reinforcing, not weakening,” he said.

After the proposed deadline for retained EU legislation on 31 December 2023, the UK government will have power to amend, repeal and replace retained EU laws.

Following criticism from health campaigners, Defra is now being questioned by House of Lords member Baroness Bennett of Manor Castle on whether it will ensure the Retained EU Law Bill will “not result in people in the UK being exposed to azodicarbonamide, potassium bromate, or any other flour bleaching agents or industrial bread additives banned across the EU”.

The government has been approached for comment.