A few weeks ago, Facebook and the news were overrun with stories about a blogger’s petition to have Subway remove azodicarbonamide from its bread. Subway has responded saying they are already working toward removing the chemical from its products. Azodicarbonamide is also found in shoe soles and yoga mats. When used in breads, it serves as a bleaching agent, to eliminate the naturally yellowish color of the bread, or as a conditioning agent, to make the dough easier to work with. The chemical is illegal in Australia, parts of Europe, and the United Kingdom. So why is it still legal in the United States?
Azodicarbonamide has been found to cause asthma and other respiratory problems when workers are exposed to it in large amounts. The FDA insists that it is safe, as long as it constitutes less than 45 parts per million in products. So perhaps it is true that the chemical, as it is presented to the public in a Subway sandwich, isn’t harmful. Someone has to deal with the chemical in a purer form though, surely, in order to put it in the sandwiches. In addition, what happened to making bread the old-fashioned way: sans plastic chemicals?
What bothered me most about hearing this story was that I have heard various people say that even though they are still eating out, at least Subway’s is a healthy choice. Subway promotes itself with the motto “Eat Fresh,” and they have athletes in their advertising campaigns. Yet it uses the same chemicals as other fast food joints. How sad is it when we have to assume that bread is not just bread, a sandwich just a sandwich? You may have caught me say “the same chemicals.” Azodicarbonamide is not just a random ingredient used by Subway. It is a widely accepted additive in certain breads at Wendy’s, Starbucks, Dunkin’ Donuts, and McDonalds, among other places. The bread doesn’t need to have this chemical added to it, though. Since the additive is illegal in Europe, fast food chains there use a different recipe. Even if the FDA won’t put its foot down where azodicarbonamide is concerned, a company could choose not to use this harmful substance.
Upon hearing about the Subway scandal, I felt like I should take this as a wake up call to eat out less often, and to try to know what I’m eating and where it comes from. Little did I know that it was a run of the mill chemical in the food industry. While my research hasn’t made me afraid to eat at Subway or other places, it has disgusted me. Even with the known health risks this substance produces, the US still allows the use of azodicarbonamide. How many other substances are in the foods and drinks we buy every day that the FDA knows could pose a health risk? Some substances, such as the yellow dye that can be found in some Kraft products, are also illegal in other countries, and yet remain on the market here.
So last night, I came home and made French onion soup, as the beginning of an as yet undetermined period of time where I won’t eat out, or if I do, I’ll check what I’m eating. This way I can have better control over what goes into my body, and I’ll be healthier, too. The project may sound ambitious, and I may only last a few weeks before I go out for lunch during work, but I am too frustrated with the state of American fast food right now to just let it go. We as people have to take charge and demand change. We have to know what is in the things we eat, and care if we’re not getting food that is good for us. Never mind what is organic, can we start with demanding nontoxic foods?
My information in this article came from ABC’s article (http://abcnews.go.com/Health/subway-takes-chemical-sandwich-bread-protest/story?id=22373414) and NBC’s (http://www.nbcnews.com/business/consumer/chemical-subway-ditched-mcdonalds-wendys-use-it-too-n25051).