Remember Subway’s “yoga mat chemical” controversy? In 2014, a petition created by blogger/activist Vani Hari, AKA Foodbabe, urged the chain to remove azodicarbonamide, a substance also found in yoga mats, from its bread. Just days — and quite a bit of public backlash — later Subway agreed to phase out the ingredient.
Since then, a number of other chains have also rid their menus of azodicarbonamide: According to Bloomberg, “McDonald’s, Chick-fil-A, Wendy’s, White Castle, and Jack in the Box, which all used the chemical in their breads in 2014, have since gotten rid of it entirely.”
Though companies like McDonald’s have been quick to announce the removal of preservatives, antibiotics, and high-fructose corn syrup, they’ve been relatively quiet when it comes to azodicarbonamide — presumably because they didn’t want to call attention to the fact they were using it in the first place.
According to the FDA, the chemical is most commonly used “as a whitening agent in cereal flour and as a dough conditioner in bread baking.” The Environmental Working Group has found it in hundreds of supermarket items, but the chemical is also used as a foaming agent in some plastic and vinyl products — namely, yoga mats.
The science surrounding the ingredient is a little murky. The FDA does approve the use of azodicarbonamide in food in limited amounts, but it has been linked to both asthma and cancer by some organizations. Meanwhile, the Center for Science in the Public Interest has urged the FDA to ban its use in food altogether.
• The Yoga-Mat Chemical’s Quiet Fast-Food Exit [Bloomberg]