Subway and Publix supermarkets will soon be removing a chemical commonly found in rubber from its bread products, but a new report has identified nearly 500 other foods that contain the additive azodicarbonamide, or ADA. The products are sold under 130 brand names including Sara Lee and Pillsbury.
The report was released by the nonprofit Environmental Working Group (EWG). EWG wants to persuade food manufacturers to stop the use of ADA, which acts as a sort of baking powder in the making of plastics, rubber and ceramics. The additive is used in products like yoga mats and shoe soles. Food producers wind up using the same chemical in baked goods.
The findings of an EWG analysis were based on data from FoodEssentials, an organization that compiles the claims made on foods and ingredients in foods sold in American supermarkets. Gathered prior to Feb. 11, the information presents a snapshot of the foods recently on the market.
"ADA is just one example of an American food supply awash in chemical additives that can be mixed into foods with little oversight or safety review," said David Andrews, Ph.D., EWG senior scientist and co-author for the analysis. "Americans have regularly eaten this chemical along with hundreds of other questionable food additives for years. That is why we are putting together an online database that will enable consumers to make more informed decisions about the foods they eat and feed to their family."
According to the World Health Organization, there is a link between ADA and increased risk of skin irritation and respiratory problems in workers handling large amounts of the chemical. No extensive testing has been done on the additive to determine its effect on humans.
While the FDA has allowed ADA in U.S. food products, it is not allowed for that purpose in Australia or the European Union.
EWG plans to launch an online campaign to raise awareness of the use of ADA in food and to pressure companies into dropping it from their products. In February FoodBabe.com creator Vani Hari led an online petition urging Subway to remove the additive from its sandwich bread. The petition received over 92,000 signatures. Shortly thereafter, Subway announced that it had already begun phasing out use of ADA and that full removal would be completed in a matter of weeks.
"As my campaign has shown, social media and grassroots advocacy can shake up the food industry and produce real change on behalf of consumers," Hari said. "I will continue to work with EWG and others to keep the pressure on to get these industrial chemicals out of our food."
EWG recommends that consumers read labels to see if ADA or other chemical additives are in their food.