Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Subway responds to petition, phases out 'yoga mat chemical'

  • Print
Subway has  more than  3,000 Canadian locations and 41,000 around  the world.

CP Enlarge Image

Subway has more than 3,000 Canadian locations and 41,000 around the world.

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

The disclosure comes as 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 U.S. Food and Drug Administration for use in food as a bleaching agent and dough conditioner. It can be found in a wide variety of products, including those served at McDonald's, Burger King and Starbucks and breads sold in supermarkets. But its long, unfamiliar name has an unappetizing ring, and the petition became a flashpoint in part by noting the chemical is also used to make yoga mats.

Tony Pace, Subway's chief marketing officer, told The Associated Press in a phone interview that the chain had started phasing out the ingredient late last year and the process should be complete within a week. Subway is privately held and doesn't disclose its sales figures. But it has apparently been 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 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 even the simple act of toasting can increase its levels.

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

Coupland also questioned how Subway's removal of the ingredient would address the bigger question of whether its food is actually healthy.

"Maybe there are some people who think Subway is healthy now -- that's my concern," he said.

Subway, which has 3,067 Canadian locations and more than 41,000 around the world, had said soon after the petition surfaced in February it was in the process of removing the ingredient. But the company wouldn't provide details on a timeline, prompting some to say the chain didn't really have a plan to remove the ingredient.

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

The company did not immediately 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 the chain has also 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, has said she targeted Subway because of its image of serving healthy food. Hari said she was happy to hear about Subway's move but the chain still had other questionable ingredients, such as caramel colouring 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. Among the companies that have made changes are PepsiCo Inc., which removed a chemical from Gatorade, and ConAgra, which simplified the ingredients in its Healthy Choice frozen meals.

-- The Associated Press

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition April 14, 2014 D3

Fact Check

Fact Check

Have you found an error, or know of something we’ve missed in one of our stories?
Please use the form below and let us know.

* Required
  • Please post the headline of the story or the title of the video with the error.

  • Please post exactly what was wrong with the story.

  • Please indicate your source for the correct information.

  • Yes

    No

  • This will only be used to contact you if we have a question about your submission, it will not be used to identify you or be published.

  • Cancel

Having problems with the form?

Contact Us Directly
  • Print

You can comment on most stories on winnipegfreepress.com. You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

You can comment on most stories on winnipegfreepress.com. You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

Have Your Say

New to commenting? Check out our Frequently Asked Questions.

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscribers only. why?

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press Subscribers only. why?

The Winnipeg Free Press does not necessarily endorse any of the views posted. By submitting your comment, you agree to our Terms and Conditions. These terms were revised effective April 16, 2010.

letters

Make text: Larger | Smaller

LATEST VIDEO

Police speak out on Red River search

View more like this

Photo Store Gallery

  • An American White Pelican takes flight from the banks of the Red River in Lockport, MB. A group of pelicans is referred to as a ‘pod’ and the American White Pelican is the only pelican species to have a horn on its bill. May 16, 2012. SARAH O. SWENSON / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS
  • Marc Gallant/Winnipeg Free Press. Gardening Column- Assiniboine Park English Garden. July 19, 2002.

View More Gallery Photos

Poll

Do you think food-security issues are an important topic to address during this mayoral campaign?

View Results

View Related Story

Ads by Google