There is WHAT?!? in Our Bread?

4 years ago

The lunch line at my local Subway store is long. The ads in the window tout the flatbread sandwich specials. I’m pleased that the restaurant has made a move to remove azodicarbonamide from the bread they use for their sandwiches. This chemical additive is banned in United Kingdom, Europe and Australia, though it is commonly found in American products.  It has been linked to causing asthma and other respiratory problems.

Yet even with the public requesting azodicarbonamide not be included in our food, including Vani Hari's call to action on her popular site, Food Babe, the chemical is still being used in commercial baking in hundreds of products.

Like that bread you might have in your kitchen... right now.

Azodicarbonamide is a synthetic chemical that is mixed into plastics to make them more pliable. In food items it is used as a bleaching agent; making white bread much whiter than it would be naturally. It is also used as a dough conditioner. A pound of bread can have up to (but no more than) 0.00045% of azodicarbonamide in the flour.

The things is, you may not know that you're eating it.  It could be in that garlic bread you dipped into the marinara sauce at a chain Italian restaurant. Or that English muffin you smeared with jam. It is in hot dog buns, and sometimes even in hot dogs. It can even be in the freezer case spaghetti and meatball dinner. 

Image: Gena Haskett

If you consume bread at a retail restaurant or purchase it from the grocery store, there is a good chance azodicarbonamide is in the food you're consuming. In 2012, Jill Tiemann of Real Food Forager wrote a post on why she does not eat commercial breads, stating,

Commercial bread manufacturers have no interest in nutrition. If they are using refined white flour it is fortified with synthetic vitamins which are poorly absorbed. If they are using whole grains, the vitamins and minerals are all bound up in the bran where it is unavailable unless it has been properly prepared. The marketing for these products is geared towards sale of the product, not the nutrient content.

Know What You Are Eating

Information is power, and empowerment requires information. allows visitors to search retail grocery products. This can be very helpful if you have a dietary allergy. You can search by product, ingredient, or you can use filters to screen foods that do not contain gluten, animal derivatives, or MSG.

The Center for Science in the Public Interest's Chemical Cuisine site is a good place to find out what is safe to eat, what is questionable, and what food additives to avoid. Chemical Cuisine also has an app for both iOS and Android users.

People Need to Eat

People still need to eat; we just need to do so wisely with our health in mind.  If you don’t want 20 dodgy ingredients in your bread, then it is time to get serious about what you will and won’t stand for in your daily consumption.  There are plenty of ways to vote with your wallet and put some pressure on bread manufacturers.

    • Give up bread and grain consumption; many people do this for health reasons. It might be time to consider this option.
    • Switch to gluten-free bread products. These can be found in retail supermarkets.
    • Actively search for regional or local breads that do not contain chemical enhancements. They will cost a little more and the breads will not be bleached white. Some of these breads are in supermarkets, but you will also find them in specialty stores like Trader Joe and Whole Foods.
    • Bake your own bread with organic flours.
    • Find bakers at your local farmers market.
    • Seek out a local organic baker or a non-organic baker you can trust.

    If the bread industry does not want to respond to our requests for clean bread, then let’s take our money and buying power someplace else.