New York Senator Charles E. Schumer is appealing to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to ban a harmful chemical that is commonly found in many commercial bread products.
The widespread use and carcinogenic effects of the chemical, azodicarbonamide, recently made headlines after Subway decided to voluntarily remove the chemical from its breads.
Schumer issued a letter calling on the FDA to issue a national ban against the toxic cancer-causing chemical, citing its harmful negative effects and a ban from other countries around the world.
The ubiquitous chemical is used in many bread products in the United States and Canada, including products sold at McDonald’s, Arby’s, Starbucks, Wendy’s, Burger King, Kentucky Fried Chicken and many grocery store chains and restaurants.
Azodicarbonamide is an industrial chemical often used to increase elasticity in rubber products, such as shoes and yoga mats. It is also often added to bread as a dough conditioner to make the bread last longer, and is used as a flour bleaching agent. The chemical is found in many cereal products as well.
Health officials in Europe and Australia banned the chemical after concerns regarding it’s carcinogenic effects surfaced.
When the chemical is heated, like it is during the baking process, trace amounts of semicarbazide and urethane are formed. These compounds are recognized carcinogens and semicarbazide was shown to cause tumors in humans.
“Many countries in the developed world have banned this toxic chemical from food products, and it’s time for the U.S. to follow suit,” said Schumer in the letter to the FDA. “The FDA needs to take another look at this chemical and make sure that the thing that makes our rubber rubbery is not also making our food carcinogenic.”
Widespread Health Concerns
A 1999 report by the World Health Organization (WHO) also linked the chemical to increased asthma, allergies and respiratory issues.
WHO also states very few scientific studies have focused on the long term carcinogenic, reproductive and developmental effects of human consumption, leaving many questions concerning its safety unanswered.
Azodicarbonamide is currently approved by the FDA for use in food if it does not exceed 45 parts per billion.
Schumer is calling on the agency to issue a national ban on the chemical under a clause that prohibits the FDA from approving any food for consumption which is carcinogenic.
The initial Subway controversy was sparked by Vani Hari, an activist blogger known as the “Food Babe”. She began a petition, which eventually gained more than 57,000 signatures, asking Subway to reformulate their bread recipe to exclude azodicarbonamide.
Earlier this week, Subway announced that it will remove the chemical from its breads; a move which was already taken in overseas Subway restaurants.
McDonalds, one of the companies that continues to use the chemical, issued statements calling the compound “a common food additive” that is already in many products consumers already buy. A spokesperson for the company said much of the confusion stemmed from a different form of the chemical, an industrial strength version, which is used in products like yoga mats. McDonald’s contends there is another version of the chemical which is approved by the FDA and is “safe for bakers.”
Regardless of the assurance of safety by McDonald’s and other companies who continue to use the chemical, Schumer says the chemical should not be used in the American market.
“We must avoid exposing our families and children to the potential harmful effects that consuming azodicarbonamide may lead to,” said Schumer.