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Author Topic: Nearly 500 ways to make a yoga mat sandwich  (Read 1841 times)

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Nearly 500 ways to make a yoga mat sandwich
« on: March 05, 2014, 10:00:35 pm »

Thursday, February 27, 2014

By David Andrews, Ph.D., Senior Scientist, and Elaine Shannon, Editor-in-chief and publisher

If you’ve planked on a yoga mat, slipped on flip-flops, extracted a cell phone from protective padding or lined an attic with foam insulation, chances are you’ve had a brush with an industrial chemical called azodicarbonamide, nicknamed ADA. In the plastics industry, ADA is the “chemical foaming agent” of choice. It is mixed into polymer plastic gel to generate tiny gas bubbles, something like champagne for plastics. The results are materials that are strong, light, spongy and malleable.

As few Americans realized until Vani Hari, creator of FoodBabe.com, spotlighted it earlier this month, you’ve probably eaten ADA. This industrial plastics chemical shows up in many commercial baked goods as a “dough conditioner” that renders large batches of dough easier to handle and makes the finished products puffier and tough enough to withstand shipping and storage. According to the new EWG Food Database of ingredients in 80,000 foods, now under development, ADA turns up in nearly 500 items and in more than 130 brands of bread, bread stuffing and snacks, including many advertised as “healthy.”

EWG researchers who are constructing the database found that ADA is listed as an ingredient on the labels of many well-known brands of bread, croutons, pre-made sandwiches and snacks, including Ball Park, Butternut, Country Hearth, Fleischman’s, Food Club, Harvest Pride, Healthy Life, Jimmy Dean, Joseph Campione, Kroger, Little Debbie, Mariano’s, Marie Callendar’s, Martin’s, Mother’s, Pillsbury, Roman Meal, Sara Lee, Schmidt, Shoprite, Safeway, Smucker’s, Sunbeam, Turano, Tyson, Village Hearth and Wonder.

This synthetic additive has been largely overlooked because it is not known to be toxic to people in the concentration approved by the federal Food and Drug Administration – 45 parts per million. According to the World Health Organization, workers handling large volumes have reported respiratory symptoms and skin sensitization, but ADA has not undergone extensive testing of its potential to harm human health.

One thing is clear: ADA is not food, as food has been defined for most of human history.  It is an industrial chemical added to bread for the convenience of industrial bakers. In centuries past, flour fresh from the mill had to age several months before it could be kneaded into dough and popped into the oven. But in 1956, a New Jersey chemical, pharmaceuticals and engineering firm called Wallace & Tiernan, best known for inventing a mass water chlorination process, discovered that ADA caused flour to “achiev[e] maturing action without long storage.” The result, the firm’s patent application stated, was commercial bread that was “light, soft and suitably moist, yet suitably firm or resilient, and that [had] crusts and internal properties of a pleasing and palatable nature.”  The FDA approved ADA as a food additive in 1962.  It is not approved for use in either Australia or the European Union.

In the early 1990s, ADA became the preferred dough conditioner of many American commercial bakers as a result of California’s Proposition 65, which went into effect in 1987. This law required California authorities to list certain chemicals in food as “possibly dangerous to human health.” Potassium bromate, then a common dough conditioner, was found to be carcinogenic in test animals and made the Prop 65 list in 1991. ADA was widely adopted as a safer substitute.

Over the years, health activists concerned about synthetic chemicals in food have attacked the widespread use of ADA, but it did not attract nationwide headlines until Hari of Food Babe circulated a petition demanding that Subway, among the nation’s biggest fast-food outlets, stop using the chemical in its loaves. Subway responded that ADA was safe, but even so, it had quietly been seeking a substitute over the past year. The company pointed out that ADA is “found in the breads of most chains such as Starbuck’s, Wendy’s, McDonald’s, Arby’s, Burger King, and Dunkin Donuts.” Those other fast food giants joined Subway on the defensive.

EWG's Food Database, which is now being tested but is still under development, shows that ADA is widespread in supermarket items as well as fast food. The EWG project is being built on data gathered by FoodEssentials, a company that compiles details about the ingredients in foods sold in American supermarkets. To this data, EWG is adding layers drawn from its research on hazard concerns such as pesticide residues, food additives, and contaminants such as mercury. EWG’s Food Database will be the first of its kind – looking deeply at the nutritional value of foods sold in supermarkets as well as their potential health hazards and degree of processing. The interactive project is funded by support from the GRACE Communications Foundation, the Brin Wojcicki Foundation and EWG’s online community and partners. It is scheduled to be made available to the public in the fall.

The database has two purposes: to empower consumers with the information they need to make healthier shopping choices and to put pressure on food manufacturers to clean up the nation's food supply. It draws on EWG’s expertise and experience gained in developing online databases that have dramatically affected policy debates and consumer awareness on topics including farm subsidies, tap water contaminants, pesticides in produce, hazardous ingredients in personal care products and home cleaners, and the damage done to public land by oil, gas and uranium extraction.

The information detailed in this report on ADA, gathered from FoodEssentials on Feb. 11, represents a snapshot of food market on that date. EWG recognizes that the marketplace is constantly changing as food processors reformulate, discontinue and introduce products. The list of products in this report represents an extensive look at the ingredients in food recently available in stores, but it may not be comprehensive.  Shoppers must read product labels to know for certain whether ADA and other chemical additives are in items they’re contemplating buying.

The consumers’ search for healthier food may get easier as the “clean label” trend in food manufacturing gains momentum. Last month, the trade journal Snack Food & Wholesale Bakery reported that commercial bakers and snack food manufacturers are seeking new, better ingredients “mostly due to consumer demand for better-for-you products with clean labels and no genetically modified organisms (GM0s).”

“Clean label,” like “natural,” has no precise legal definition. Food manufacturers often use the term to mean wholesome, without synthetic and unpronounceable ingredients – notably azodicarbonamide.

EWG recommends that consumers take steps to avoid the industrial additive ADA in their food. It is an unnecessary ingredient, its use has raised concerns about occupational exposure, and questions remain about its potential risk to consumers.

EWG also calls on all manufacturers to immediately end its use in food. 

Nearly 500 foods containing azodicarbonamide

See the list at : http://www.ewg.org/research/nearly-500-ways-make-yoga-mat-sandwich


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