(Health Secrets) Internet food activist Vani Hari, also known as The Food Babe, has made amazing progress getting food purveyors to shape up and unload damaging ingredients from their products. Her latest achievements are convincing Subway to stop using a cancer-causing dough conditioner made from plastic in their breads, and getting Chick-fil-A to stop using chicken treated with antibiotics, although it will take the chicken folks five years to figure out how to do that.
In the case of Subway, a global submarine sandwich chain, the substance in question is azodicarbonamide, a chemical used primarily in the rubber and plastics industries to produce such items as shoe soles, and yoga mats. When heated, azodicarbinamide breaks down into urethane and semicarbazide. Urethane is a plastic resin used in paint, and in the making of foam cushions. Both compounds have been found to cause cancer in rodents. And both have been approved for use in food by the FDA and USDA.
Azodicarbinamide has already been banned across Europe and in Britain and Australia, and Subway does not add it to its bread doughs in these countries. Subway now says it will end azodicarbinamide use in the U.S. “soon”. A timeline has not yet been provided, and you can expect media coverage of the event when it happens. Until then, sandwiches at Subway will continue to contain azodicarbinamide. There is no way around it, since it is used in virtually all of their breads.
Subway has always traded on its image as being a healthy place to eat.
According to a CBS News report, Hari reached out to Subway several times over the past year and a half regarding its use of the chemical. She has commended the company for finally taking action. Hari told CBS, “I had been eating Subway my whole life, thinking it was healthy fast food until I found out that it’s not eating ‘fresh’ at all”. Her comment was a jab at Subway’s ‘eat fresh’ ad campaigns.
Why you’ve got to read labels
Commercial bakers often use dough conditioners to improve the texture, appearance and shelf-life of their bread and to enhance the development of gluten and starch in the dough. They are used in many other fast food and restaurant chains, and are added to breads and other baked goods sold in many conventional grocery stores.
Walmart and its Sam’s Club are big users of azodicarbinamide. If you want to avoid the chemical, you have got to read the label before you buy. It can be a chore wading through all the other chemicals on their baked goods labels.
McDonald’s uses it in its baked goods too, and so does Chick-fil-A, Burger King, Wendy’s, Arby’s, Jack in the Box, and White Castle. If your favorite chain is not listed here, don’t assume it is free of this chemical. You’ve got to ask.
Even the mighty Starbucks uses it in some of its baked goods. And don’t overlook one of the biggest users, donut shops.
As for Vani Hari, what could be better than a beautiful young woman willing to fight for us even though many of us are not willing to fight for ourselves!
As Americans become more health conscious, food and beverage companies are learning that unfamiliar ingredients can bring criticism from people like Hari who use petitions as their weapons. To avoid a public fight and damaging publicity, manufacturers have already reformulated some popular products to remove unpronounceable components that could draw criticism.
Recently Pepsi Co said it would stop using brominated vegetable oil in its Gatorade, and Starbucks said it would stop using red dye made from crushed beetles and switch to a tomato-based extract. Even Kraft has agreed to remove the neon orange dye that made its macaroni and cheese legendary.
If this all makes it seem like there’s a minefield out there, you are right. Your only defense is your ability to read labels and ask questions.
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