Known as the "yoga mat" compound, in part due to a campaign by a popular food blogger, azodicarbonamide (ADA) is more than an mouthful both figuratively and literally given that it appears in nearly 500 foods and over 130 brands of bread,
according to a report by the Environmental Watchdog Group
An industrial "chemical foaming agent," ADA is used by plastic makers manufacturing yoga mats, flip flops, foam packaging and more to make materials spongy but strong. Starting in the early 1960s, the FDA approved its use as a bleaching agent and "dough conditioner" in breads.
During the baking process, ADA
partially degrades into semicarbazide
, a carcinogenic compound shown to cause tumors. Whether enough semicarbazide emerges from baking to be toxic is an open question.
ADA is not permitted as a food additive in the European Union or Australia, but the FDA asserts the it is safe in food in concentrations up to 45 parts per million.
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