We All Eat This Ingredient – Is it Really Bad?

Cupcake PanicWelcome, readers to the well-trodden soil trampled by numerous junk “latest studies” and their cousin, the baseless activist food scare. The latest is that eating bread—yes, bread, the consummate human food—is bad because an approved ingredient called azodicarbonamide (ADA) is used in the baking process.

It turns out that ADA is also used in the construction of yoga mats. In activist-speak: “Stop eating bread! It is made out of yoga mats and that’s bad!

Who else to trumpet this convoluted logic but the discredited Environmental Working (Worry) Group (EWG). Echoing the cries of other radical food activists, the group said, “ADA is not food, as food has been defined for most of human history.”

Well, duh — bread is food, ADA is just something that goes into bread (like yeast, which also isn’t exactly “food” in itself). We can play this game too—Sodium bicarbonate is used in grease fire extinguishers and as a pesticide. It’s not food. It is, however, common baking soda—another safe “chemical” ingredient used in bread.

No wonder 79 percent of Society of Toxicology members say that EWG overstates the health risks of chemicals. This has never stopped them from linking the most general and mundane consumer products to everything from sniffles to cancer. Fear sells (or in EWG’s case, rakes in the Big Green foundation cash). The self-described Food Babe, a fear-mongering-for-profit blogger who claims no scientific credentials (other than maybe staying in a Holiday Inn Express last night) is also deeply involved in this campaign, targeting Subway restaurants.

Both EWG and the “Food Babe” should have zero credibility on food safety, as both deny the scientific consensus on the safety of genetically improved foods. So what is this “yoga mat chemical” anyway? ADA is simply an oxidizing agent that makes for easier dough conditioning allowing bread to be made from fresh flour. (Previously, fresh flour would have to be aged several months after milling before it could be kneaded and made into bread.)

Developed in New Jersey in 1956, this ingredient allowed flour to “achiev[e] maturing action without long storage” and was generally found to improve the look and durability of bread. In fact, ADA is considered to be the safer and better alternative to its dough conditioning predecessor, potassium bromate. In other words, ADA offers consumers a better, safer product at a lower price.

Though less exciting and headline grabbing than its fear-peddled alternative, it means that we can still enjoy our lunch without worries that we are eating someone’s downward-facing dog.

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