Chemistry and Life

Medicinal chemistry. Pharmacology. Toxicology. Environmental sciences.

Azodicarbonamide

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AzodicarbonamideAzodicarbonamide is used as a food additive in bread making.  In the United States and Canada, its use is permitted in low levels (45 ppm).  In Europe, it is not permitted.  Azodicarbonamide is also used industrially as a “blowing agent” – upon heating, it releases nitrogen and other gas bubbles that allow production of foamy materials.

Recently, azodicarbonamide has gotten quite a bit of attention in the news.  U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer recently asked the Food and Drug Administration to ban it.  And Subway Restaurants announced earlier this week that they will stop using it in their bread.

The safety of everything added to food is naturally a valid concern, but what really bothers me about the news reporting of azodicarbonamide is the repeated comments that it is also “used to make yoga mats and shoe rubber”.  (Some examples here and here.)  Whether or not azodicarbonamide is safe to use in the food we eat is, of course, in no way dependent on what else it may be used for.  That’s like complaining that we shouldn’t use yeast in bread because it produces the same chemical, carbon dioxide, that is also used as a blowing agent in making foamed plastics.  This nonsense about yoga mats and shoe rubber is an illogical and unscientific appeal to emotion, used solely for sensationalist and inflammatory reasons, as if maybe eating bread with this food additive in it is like eating bread with shoe rubber in it.

Please, just stick with the science.  What amount of azodicarbonamide remains in the bread after cooking?  What are the potential health effects of consuming bread with that amount of azodicarbonamide?  What impact does that have on the appropriateness of current regulations?

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