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Fast Food Companies Quietly Drop Yoga-Mat Chemical

Two years ago Subway removed a chemical used in yoga mats and other industrial products from its bread. Others have too, but why don’t they brag about it?

Fast food companies are discreetly removing azodicarbonamide, a chemical used in yoga mats, from their products.

Blogger Power

In 2014, Subway announced it would remove an additive from its bread after a food blogger sparked a consumer uprising.

Azodicarbonamide (ADC), a foaming agent that makes products spongier, is also used in some foods – including bread – to improve texture.

ADC is not approved for use in the European Union or Australia, but considered safe in small amounts by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

Vani Hari, a blogger known as Food Babe, gathered tens of thousands of signatures on a petition to get Subway to remove the stuff. It worked.

No Fanfare

According to a report from Bloomberg, over the last two years McDonald’s, Chick-fil-A, Wendy’s, White Castle, and Jack in the Box have also stopped using it – but with barely a mention in ads or press releases.

Brand experts told the news agency that companies could be trying to avoid associations with the “yoga-mat additive,” while also avoiding the cross hairs of consumer campaigns.

A spokesperson for White Castle, Jamie Richardson, said that in quietly removing ADC from its breads, the restaurant took a “humble” approach instead of “patting ourselves on the back.”

Is It Dangerous?

The World Health Organization has linked the chemical to asthma and skin irritations in factory workers exposed to high levels.

Consumer watchdog group Center for Science in the Public Interest cites cancer links in two breakdown chemicals that stem from ADC, and recommends against its use.

Another food safety advocate, Environmental Working Group, reported that ADC has not undergone extensive testing to determine its health effects on humans, so should not be allowed.

A skeptic of the anti-ADC campaign pointed out to NPR in 2014 that many food ingredients also have industrial uses, including calcium sulfate – used to make tofu and other foods – which is also used to make drywall.

Read More:

  • The Yoga-Mat Chemical’s Quiet Fast-Food Exit (Bloomberg)
  • Almost 500 Foods Contain The ‘Yoga Mat’ Compound. Should We Care? (NPR)
Chad Bouchard

Chad Bouchard is a veteran reporter and WFIU alum who has covered wild and wooly beats from Indonesia to Capitol Hill. His radio work has aired on NPR, PRI and Voice of America, and his writing has appeared in The Sunday Telegraph and Scientific American’s health magazine, Lives. He has also spent a lifetime gardening, foraging and eating weird stuff.

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