You may have already heard this news: Subway restaurants have decided to remove an ingredient from their breads that's also found in yoga mats and shoes. Called azodicarbonamide (ADA), the unappetizing ingredient is banned in Australia and Europe for a connection with serious health issues, both for people who consume the ingredient and for people working with the product. "The World Health Organization states that epidemiological studies in humans and other reports have produced ‘abundant evidence that azodicarbonamide can induce asthma, other respiratory symptoms, and skin sensitization’ to people working with the chemical," explains Reuters.
The move came after pressure from the blogger Vani Hari, better known as "Food Babe," brought attention to the issue with a petition, asking the fast food chain that claims to be healthy to remove the controversial ingredient. (Subway says it was already in the process of pulling the ingredient from its bread.) Used as a bleaching and oxidizing agent in dough to help performance for bakers, it also performs a similar function in plastics—improving the elasticity in shoes and yoga mats.
Now, after the Subway issue brought the use of azodicarbonamide to the public eye, a report by the Environmental Working Group points to close to 500 other popular food items that also contain ADA—and asking the brands to remove the ingredient. "In the plastics industry, ADA is the ‘chemical foaming agent’ of choice. It is mixed into polymer plastic gel to generate tiny gas bubbles, something like champagne for plastics. The results are materials that are strong, light, spongy and malleable," reports the EWG.
"The FDA states that azodicarbonamide can be used safely if the amount in flour does not exceed 2.05 grams per 100 pounds of flour or 45 parts per million," reports Reuters.
But even though it's approved by the FDA, ADA's presence in a number of breads, tortillas, hamburger and hot dog buns, pizza, pastries, and other dough-based food products, has led the Environmental Working Group to ask manufacturers to take swift action to pull the ingredient from all products. "EWG researchers who are constructing the database found that ADA is listed as an ingredient on the labels of many well-known brands of bread, croutons, pre-made sandwiches and snacks, including Ball Park, Butternut, Country Hearth, Fleischman’s, Food Club, Harvest Pride, Healthy Life, Jimmy Dean, Joseph Campione, Kroger, Little Debbie, Mariano’s, Marie Callendar’s, Martin’s, Mother’s, Pillsbury, Roman Meal, Sara Lee, Schmidt, Shoprite, Safeway, Smucker’s, Sunbeam, Turano, Tyson, Village Hearth and Wonder," the group notes.
"One thing is clear: ADA is not food, as food has been defined for most of human history," says EWG. "It is an industrial chemical added to bread for the convenience of industrial bakers. In centuries past, flour fresh from the mill had to age several months before it could be kneaded into dough and popped into the oven."
Now, U.S. Senator Charles Schumer (D-NY), has asked the FDA to take steps in banning the ingredient from all foods. Shoes and yoga mats would not be affected. But you probably shouldn't eat those anyway.
Find Jill on Twitter @jillettinger
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