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‘ADA’ Chemical Found in Hundreds of Foods, EWG Reports

Update Date: Feb 27, 2014 09:32 AM EST

Restaurant chain, Subway, recently announced that they would remove a plastics chemical ingredient from their bread products. The chemical, Azodicarbonamide or ADA, is a potentially harmful industrial ingredient used in making rubbery items, such as yoga mats. In a new report, researchers set out to see just how often ADA is used in foods. They discovered ADA in around 500 food items.

"It's unacceptable that major food companies are using an unnecessary and potentially harmful chemical in their products, when it's clear they can make food without it," said Vani Hari, the blogger that campaigned Subway to remove ADA. "These questionable additives are not supposed to be food or even eaten for that matter, but they do end up in the U.S. food supply and are consumed by millions of people, including children, every day."

The researchers from the Environmental Working Group (EWG) based in Washington found ADA in nearly 500 food products and over 130 brands of bread, pre-made sandwiches, snacks and stuffing. Some of the food items included bagels, tortillas, hamburger and hot dog buns, pizza and pastries. The EWG analyzed information provided by FoodEssentials. FoodEssentials is a company that collects information on the ingredients used in different food items found in the average supermarket. All of the information was compiled before Feb.11.

"ADA is just one example of an American food supply awash in chemical additives that can be mixed into foods with little oversight or safety review," David Andrews, Ph.D., EWG senior scientist and co-author for the analysis, said in the news release. "Americans have regularly eaten this chemical along with hundreds of other questionable foods additives for years. That is why we are putting together an online database that will enable consumers to make more informed decisions about the foods they eat and feed to their family."

ADA is a U.S. FDA (Food and Drug Administration) approved ingredient for food. The chemical is currently banned as an additive in Australia and in some select European nations. It is commonly used to make items, such as flip-flops and foam packaging, light, spongy and strong. In 1956, companies started using ADA as a "dough conditioner" to make bread softer and more resilient. The chemical was approved as an addictive in the 1960s.

The World Health Organization (WHO) has tied overexposure of ADA to respiratory complications and skin irritation. However, the chemical has not been tested fully in order to understand the health risks involved for humans.

"As my campaign has shown, social media and grassroots advocacy can shake up the food industry and produce real change on behalf of consumers," Hari said. "I will continue to work with EWG and others to keep the pressure on to get these industrial chemicals out of our food."

The EWG wants all food manufacturers to stop using this ingredient and plans on launching an online campaign to help spread awareness. The report can be found here.

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