Yoga-Mat Chemical Found in Way More Food Products Than Subway Bread, Report Finds

Yahoo FoodFebruary 27, 2014

After a quick-rising backlash against Subway’s use of the dough additive azodicarbonamide (ADA), the fast-food giant recently announced that it would stop using the chemical foaming agent — found in items from yoga mats to flip-flops — in its bread. It was a small victory in the fight against questionable food additives — one that feels even smaller this week, as the Environmental Working Group (EWG) has released a new report finding ADA in the ingredients of nearly 500 supermarket-brand bread products.

Some of the many products that contain ADA in their ingredient list include:

• Wonder light wheat bread

• Martin’s potato rolls

• Pillsbury dinner rolls and Toaster Strudel pastries

• Sun-Maid raisin bread

• IHOP French toast breakfast sandwiches

• Little Debbie Honey Buns

• Mariano’s breads and rolls (42 varieties)

• Sara Lee breads and buns (19 varieties)

• Smucker’s Uncrustables PB&J sandwiches

• Sunbeam enriched bread

• Healthy Life whole wheat with flaxseed bread

"One thing is clear: ADA is not food, as food has been defined for most of human history," the EWG, a Washington, D.C.-based environmental health and advocacy organization, noted in its announcement of the finding. The massive list of products containing the additive turned up through the new EWG Food Database, the ingredients of more than 80,000 foods. "One of our big goals here is to get people more interested in what they put into their bodies, and in what they buy," EWG chemist David Andrews tells Yahoo Shine.

ADA, used as an additive in industrial flours to make bread products more elastic, spongy, and durable, has been linked by the World Health Organization to skin and respiratory problems in food workers. It’s approved for use in neither the European Union nor Australia because when ADA is heated, it’s broken-down into two questionable chemicals — one that’s a known carcinogen and another that’s been found to cause cancer in lab animals.

More on Yahoo: Sen. Schumer Calls for Ban on Ubiquitous Yoga Mat Chemical

Still, the Food and Drug Administration approved ADA in 1962, in concentrations up to 45 parts per million. “Azodicarbonamide is approved in the United States as a food additive for certain uses in cereal flour and bread-making,” the FDA says in a statement, released to Yahoo Shine. “As part of FDA’s overall commitment to ensure the safety of the food supply, the agency uses an extensive, science-based process to evaluate the safety of food additives. Under FDA regulations, safety for food additives means that there is a reasonable certainty of no harm when an additive is used within the intended conditions of use. The agency monitors the safety of food additives, including azodicarbonamide, and is prepared to take appropriate action if safety concerns arise.”

"You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to understand that we’re not supposed to be eating chemicals found in yoga mats," Vani Hari, the Food Babe blogger behind the 93,000-strong petition that, along with other efforts, including those of the Center for Science in the Public Interest, pressured Subway to drop ADA from its acceptable-ingredients list earlier this month, tells Yahoo Shine. Hari’s dogged writings on the additive have brought it into the national spotlight, and she says that she finds the response from the public encouraging.

"What’s happening is a really good indication that Americans really want to know what’s in their food," she says. "And it’s a testament to what grassroots advocacy can do." Hari, who spent much of her life battling chronic conditions including asthma, eczema, skin rashes, and stomachaches, became ailment free after giving up processed foods containing unhealthy additives. "It’s remarkable what can happen when you pay attention to the ingredients you’re eating," Hari adds, noting that Subway has been managing to make its bread without ADA in the countries that ban it and that the company has a "moral obligation" to bake the same way in the U.S.

"I think that’s what really angers people," she says. "They feel duped." 

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