Libya’s Attorney General announced yesterday that he has formed a committee to investigate the import of the prohibited substance, potassium bromate, and its use as an additive in some foodstuffs that are widely available to the consumer.
This comes as the Minister of Economy and Trade confirmed today the continuity of the decision (Resolution No. 258 of 2021) to ban potassium bromate. Potassium bromate had initially been banned by Libya in 2005.
The Attorney General’s announcement comes on the back of claims that samples of bread taken from bakeries across Libya were found to contain the food additive, potassium bromate. Potassium bromate is banned as an additive in bread in the UK and Europe.
A public clash of state institutions
The claim of the discovery of potassium bromate in Libyan bread was made by the Libyan Advanced Centre for Chemical Analysis, which is part of the state Libyan Authority for Scientific Research. It claimed that its tests have found that potassium bromate was being used as an additive in unsafe proportions in the Libyan bread and pastry industry in general.
The state Food and Drugs agency, however, denied the presence of potassium bromate in Libyan bread. It stated that all its recent tested samples from bakeries found no evidence of potassium bromate.
Public outrage: Failed and corrupt government?
The two contradictory test results caused public outrage and saturated Libyan media coverage over the last few days. It was seen as yet another example of failed government and corruption. It was then decided that a third entity should conduct independent tests.
Flour mills under the microscope
The claims of the use of potassium bromate then extended to Libya’s four mills. Today, the Minister of Economy and Trade, Mohamed Hwej, held a meeting at the Ministry which included a number of mill owners, the Bakers Syndicate/Union, and the Quality Centre for Standard Specifications, in order to follow up the implementation of Resolution No. 258 of 2021, regarding the ban on importing potassium bromate and preventing its use.
The Minister stressed the need to re-sample flour, to conduct analyses and ensure that it is free of potassium bromate to ensure the safety of the production process in flour mills and bakeries.
The Ministry reported that the attendees of the meeting denied social media claims that flour mills are adding potassium bromate to their flour.
On an implementation level, the Minister also stressed the police authorities, judicial officers, members of the municipal guard and customs must follow up on the implementation of the decision to ban potassium bromate and to take the necessary measures.