TribLIVE

| Business

 
Larger text Larger text Smaller text Smaller text | Order Photo Reprints

Subway: 'Yoga mat chemical' almost out of bread

Email Newsletters

Click here to sign up for one of our email newsletters.

On the Grid

From the shale fields to the cooling towers, Trib Total Media covers the energy industry in Western Pennsylvania and beyond. For the latest news and views on gas, coal, electricity and more, check out On the Grid today.

'American Coyotes' Series

Traveling by Jeep, boat and foot, Tribune-Review investigative reporter Carl Prine and photojournalist Justin Merriman covered nearly 2,000 miles over two months along the border with Mexico to report on coyotes — the human traffickers who bring illegal immigrants into the United States. Most are Americans working for money and/or drugs. This series reports how their operations have a major impact on life for residents and the environment along the border — and beyond.

By The Associated Press
Saturday, April 12, 2014, 12:01 a.m.
 

NEW YORK — Subway says an ingredient dubbed the “yoga mat chemical” will be entirely phased out of its bread by next week.

Subway has suffered from an onslaught of bad publicity since a food blogger petitioned the chain to remove the ingredient.

The ingredient, azodicarbonamide, is approved by the Food and Drug Administration for use in food as a bleaching agent and dough conditioner. It can be found in a variety of products, including those served at McDonald's, Burger King and Starbucks and breads sold in supermarkets. But its unfamiliar name has an unappetizing ring, and the petition became a flashpoint by noting that the chemical also is used to make yoga mats and isn't approved for use in some other parts of the world.

Tony Pace, Subway's chief marketing officer, said the chain started phasing out the ingredient late last year and that the process should be complete within a week. Subway is privately held and doesn't disclose its sales figures. But it is apparently feeling pressure from the uproar.

“You see the social media traffic, and people are happy that we're taking it out, but they want to know when we're taking it out,” Pace said. “If there are people who have that hesitation, that hesitation is going to be removed.”

The issue illustrates a split in thought about what should go into our food. One side says such additives are used in hundreds of food products and are safe to eat in the quantities approved by the FDA. The other side asks why such ingredients need to be used at all.

John Coupland, a professor of food science at Penn State University, noted that people concerned about azodicarbonamide focus in part on a carcinogen called urethane it creates in the baking process. But he said some level of urethane is already present in bread and that even toasting can increase its levels.

“Nobody worries about making toast,” Coupland said, adding that one could argue there's some type of risk associated with any number of chemicals.

Coupland questioned whether Subway's removal of the ingredient would make people think the food is healthier.

Subway, which has about 26,600 locations across the country, had said after the petition surfaced in February that it was in the process of removing the ingredient. But the company wouldn't provide details on a timeline, prompting some to say that the chain didn't really have a plan to remove the ingredient.

Pace stressed the removal isn't a reaction to the petition. The company provided a statement saying it tested the “Azo-free bread” in four markets this past fall.

It did not provide details on what changes it made to its bread to remove the ingredient.

“We're always trying to improve stuff,” Pace said. For instance, he noted that the chain has reduced sodium levels over the years and removed high-fructose corn syrup from its bread.

The blogger who created the Subway petition, Vani Hari of FoodBabe.com, said she targeted Subway because of its healthy food image. Hari said she was happy to hear about Subway's move but that the chain still had other questionable ingredients, such as caramel coloring and yeast extract.

“The entire point of the petition was that I wanted people to know that eating fresh is not really eating fresh,” she said.

Regardless of the safety of various ingredients, more people are looking to stick to diets they feel are natural. The trend has prompted numerous food makers to adjust their recipes, even as they stand by the safety of their products.

Subscribe today! Click here for our subscription offers.

 

 


Show commenting policy

Most-Read Business Headlines

  1. Shell shovels millions into proposed Beaver County plant site
  2. Extended oil slump takes toll
  3. Companies hand out perks, benefits instead of pay raises
  4. Off-duty but on call: Suits seek overtime
  5. Muni bond funds stressed
  6. When it comes to home ownership, Hispanics finding locked doors
  7. Of Caitlyn Jenner and workplace restrooms
  8. Tech Q&A: Why you should test your router
  9. Bond funds hold onto cash
  10. Small business hangs on fate of Export-Import Bank
  11. FirstEnergy to build coal waste processing facility in Beaver County