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The Environmental Working Group (EWG) is urging consumers to sign a petition asking major food brands to stop using azodicarbonamide (ADA) in their products.

The chemical is used in the rubber and plastic industry and acts as a “foaming agent,” and gives products their “buoyant quality.”  It is used in the food industry as a “dough conditioner,” that makes the dough easier to handle and gives products a “puffier” finish.

Van Hari, blogger of, petitioned Subway restaurants, demanding them to remove ADA from their sandwiches.  The EWG found almost 500 items containing this chemical in more than 130 brands of bread, snacks and other products, including those from Kroger, Ball Park, Little Debbie, Pillsbury, Sara Lee, Safeway, Country Hearth, and others.

ADA Banned in Other Parts of the World

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), azodicarbonamide was previously used in the United Kingdom and Ireland in the bread-making industry, but is currently not allowed.

WHO reports the chemical substance can cause skin and eye irritation, a sore throat, wheezing, fatigue, cramps, headache, cough, or shortness of breath when inhaled.
A WHO document stated that among humans the exact “level of risk is uncertain; hence, exposure levels should be reduced as much as possible.”  Not enough studies have been conducted on ADA to be able to report exactly what type of reaction this chemical can cause in humans.

The Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) urged the FDA to ban the chemical from our food supply in a statement released on February 4, 2014.

CSPI’S Senior Scientist, Lisa Lefferts, said semicarbazide and urethane are formed when bread is baked with ADA.  Semicarbazide has been linked to lung and blood vessel cancer in mice, while urethane is a recognized carcinogen.

Is ADA Needed in Food Products?

The FDA approved the chemical in an amount not exceeding 2.05 grams per 100 pounds of flour, or 0.0045 percent.

But, the FDA states on its website that the “use of ADA as a whitening agent and dough conditioner is not necessary to make bread and there are alternative ingredients approved for use available.”

Subway announced plans to remove the chemical from its breads in February 2014.

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