What in the world could yoga mats and Subway sandwiches have in common? They both contain the chemical azodicarbonamide—but not for much longer.
Azodicarbonamide is an FDA-approved food additive that's considered GRAS (generally recognized as safe) and is used as either a bleaching agent in flour or a dough conditioner in baked bread. It has been used by “pan” bread manufacturers for years. However, Vani Hari, a blogger who runs the site FoodBabe.com and is known for her “investigative reporting” on food products, started a petition to ask Subway to remove the ingredient, which is banned in Singapore, Australia, the UK, and most European countries, and, according to the Center for Science in the Public Interest, "slightly increases exposure to a carcinogen."
After more than 58,000 people signed the petition, Subway released a statement on Wednesday saying, "We are already in the process of removing azodicarbonamide as part of our bread improvement efforts despite the fact that it is a USDA and FDA approved ingredient. The complete conversion to have this ingredient out of the bread will be done soon.”
Food scientist David Theno, who's a consultant to Subway, says the company started working on this change last summer (before the petition) and expects the reformulated breads to take effect in restaurants in a couple of weeks. “We are continually looking at ways to clean up our food and make it healthier," he says, "and if we can eliminate an ingredient that doesn’t necessarily have to be, there we will.” The bread’s taste will ultimately be the same, as will its nutrition, Theno added.
Whatever the reason for the change, it's a positive move to make food healthier for the consumer, plain and simple. And if the petition was the straw that broke the camel’s back, then I am glad Subway listened.