A recent petition put forth by blogger Vani Hari has revealed that Subway uses a plastic-based additive in their bread commonly used in yoga mats.
The additive, which is called azodicarbonamide, is described by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) as a “dough conditioner,” intended to strengthen dough and improve elasticity.
The FDA guidelines also say the chemical can be used as “an ageing and bleaching agent in cereal flour.”
Discussion of the additives use has principally focused on a 1999 study conducted by the World Health Organization (WHO) where a bi-product of the additive, biurea, resulted in the deaths of a number of rats during testing.
For the purposes of the study, the rats in question were treated with concentrated amounts of the additive to determine the effects.
Urethane, another byproduct of the addictive, is listed as a carcinogen by the FDA but has not been connected to it’s use as a dough conditioner.
“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,” said Subway, in a recent statement. “The complete conversion to have this product out of the bread will be done soon.”
Azodicarbonamide is also used in the buns at McDonald’s and Burger King however neither has incurred the same backlash as Subway.
“This is an interesting case, because Subway purports to make all of their bread fresh every day (thus no concerns about preserving or shelf life), but the speed and efficiency with which they do it is likely enhanced by this additive,” said Christopher Fink, assistant professor and chair of the Department of Health and Human Kinetics.
“It’s difficult to lump all kinds of additives together, however, it is interesting to consider why they are present.”
Fink also said the process followed by the FDA to approve such additives for use is “quite rigorous, generally speaking” and that “there isn’t any evidence for danger for humans” when asked about long-term health concerns.
Fink also urges students avoid knee-jerk reactions to being told about something being added to their food.
“All of that being said, I would urge people to consider again the reasons for these additives…” Fink said. “While it is certainly an oversimplification, (author Michael Pollan in his book ‘In Defense of Food’) provide(s) some good guidance. He says: ‘Eat Food (real food). Not too much. Mostly plants.’”
The manager of the local Subway on Sandusky declined to comment on this story, but Subway said all local franchises would follow the example set by corporate.