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Many customers don't want the bleaching agent, azodicarbonamide in bread

The Subway restaurant chain announced Friday, April 11, 2014 that they're phasing out bread produced with a chemical commonly found in yoga mats. You may wish to check out the article, "Schumer Calls on FDA to Ban Cancer-Causing Chemical Used by Fast Food Chains." A lot of customers don't want the bleaching agent/dough conditioner chemical known as azodicarbonamide in their bread dough even though it was put in originally to improve the bread. The chemical is not put in bread baked in numerous other countries. And the chemical doesn't need to be in commercial bread dough.

Many customers don't want the bleaching agent/dough conditioner, azodicarbonamide in bread
Photo by Rafael Neddermeyer/Getty Images

So numerous fast food chains are removing the chemical according to the article, "Subway bread chemical appears on many restaurant chains." Formerly the chemical was put into the bread, but now it's being taken out as part of a bread improvement efforts despite the fact that it is a USDA and FDA approved ingredient. And several other fast-food chains using bread are also removing the chemical. You can call the restaurant you frequent to see whether it has taken it out or not. Some restaurants/eateries may not comment.

You also can check out the site for the Center for Science in the Public Interest. That organization has lobbied for the USDA to consider barring it.

The problem with that chemical is that when bread containing the chemical is baked, it produces the carcinogen urethane and "leads to slightly increased levels of urethane in bread that pose a small risk to humans" when azodicarbonamide is used at its maximum limit, according to the Center for Science in the Public Interest.

If you look at how the chemical is used in other products, In the UK, it's listed as a substance that can cause occupational asthma. Another source for research is the World Health Organization report, mentioned in the article, ""Subway bread chemical appears on many restaurant chains."

Other reported adverse effects of the chemical, azodicarbonamide include asthma, numerous respiratory symptoms, and skin sensitization in exposed workers. There needs to be more research on what other adverse affects might be lurking from exposure at various levels of the chemical.

Europe and Australia banned the chemical as a food additive. You also can check out the site,

According to restaurant websites, listed in the article, "Subway bread chemical appears on many restaurant chains," that article lists some product that contain the chemical. You can check with the various eateries and restaurants in your area to see which eatery/restaurant is taking that chemical out and when that will happen. The question is what other chemical or ingredient will replace it if commercial bread requires a certain amount of bleaching and conditioning of the dough? Why bleach bread if dark bread is supposed to be healthier, unless the bread is darkened with caramel coloring instead of natural sprouted grains or seeds?

Remember when bread used to be baked in homes with just the basic ingredients? Is it all about shelf life, conditioning dough, or about bleaching the flour? May it's time to consider dark bread made from sprouted grains or various seeds and nuts. After all, there's always the old adage, "the whiter the bread, the quicker you're dead." So why does bread flour have to be bleached or darkened with caramel coloring to look like whole wheat? And why add all that extra salt to bread? Shelf life, cost, taste, or eye-appeal?

Here is a list of some products that contain the chemical, azodicarbonamide as an ingredient. The question is when are the eateries going to remove that chemical, or are they going to remove it at all?

  • McDonald's: regular bun, bakery style bun, bagel and English muffin, Big Mac bun and sesame seed bun.
  • Burger King: specialty buns, artisan-style bun, sesame seed bun, croissant, English muffin, home-style Caesar croutons and French toast sticks.
  • Wendy's: bagel, premium toasted bun, sandwich bun and panini bread
  • Arby's: croissant, French toast sticks, harvest wheat bun, honey wheat bread, marble rye bread, mini bun, onion bread and sesame seed bun
  • Jack in the Box: bakery style bun, jumbo bun, croissant, grilled sourdough bread and regular bun
  • Chick-fil-A: chargrilled chicken sandwich, chicken salad sandwich, and chargrilled chicken club sandwich

Other fast-food chains sent a survey mentioned in the article, "Subway bread chemical appears on many restaurant chains, " didn't respond with a comment. You might call the restaurant you want to eat in to see whether it has taken out that chemical. Chances are most people working in restaurants may not know what's in the bread unless they're baking the bread themselves. And in some eateries, the manager may know the answer, if they respond.

Another issue is bread contains too much salt, usually put it to preserve the shelf life, to keep the bread soft enough so it doesn't get stale too soon, or to prevent the need to refrigerate the bread, just like salt was used for centuries to preserve other foods when refrigeration was not available. Also see a 2012 article, "Panera Bread - The Healthiest Fast Food? | Food Babe." Chemicals may have changed in the past few years. So ask the restaurant chain or check the latest news, and see which chemicals have been removed from the bread and when they were removed since that 2012 article appeared. Or for another restaurant chain, see the article, "News, McRib contains same chemical in yoga mats." And check out, "Where does the FDA stand on the use of azodicarbonamide."

Reducing all that salt put in bread

If you ask a chef, you may get the reply that salt is added to keep the bread from going moldy because refrigeration makes the bread taste stale. Or you may get other answers as to why so much salt is added to bread. You can check out the abstract of the recent study, "Influence of Texture on the Perception of Saltiness in Wheat Bread," published October 21, 2013 in the American Chemical Society's (ACS') Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry.

Sometimes each slice of bread contains around 200 mg of salt. Eat two slices, and you're getting enough salt to exceed the diet of people on low-salt diets. Or eat two slices of whole wheat bread and you also have just eaten about two tablespoons of sugar, since the wheat quickly turns to sugar once in the bloodstream. But here's how to reduce the amount of salt that gets dumped into most commercial bread unless marked as low-salt or no added salt bread:

Here's how to reduce the salt in bread without losing saltiness, thanks to a texture trick. Do you want to make bread taste pleasantly salty without adding more salt? Change the bread's texture so it is less dense, say scientists.

Researchers report in ACS' Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry that simply making the pores, or holes, larger can make people perceive bread as having saltier taste. The process could become a new strategy for reducing salt intake, which is a risk factor for high blood pressure and heart disease, according to a November 20, 2013 news release, "Reducing the salt in bread without losing saltiness, thanks to a texture trick."

Peter Koehler and colleagues explain that every day, people in industrialized countries consume, on average, twice as much salt as the World Health Organization recommends. Much of that salt — 35 percent in the United Kingdom and about 25 percent in Germany — comes from bread, which for millennia has ranked as one of the world's most ubiquitous foods.

Cutting dietary salt would reduce people's risk for developing high blood pressure, which has been diagnosed in 40 percent of adults aged 25 and older worldwide, and heart disease, which was the cause of 30 percent of all deaths in 2008. But the big question is how to do it in a palatable way.

Researchers have tried different methods, such as using salt substitutes, but only to limited effect. Studies on cheese and gels has shown that changing texture can make a product taste salty even if salt content is reduced, so Koehler's team decided to see if this would work with bread.

To alter the texture of bread for the study, they baked bread using different proofing times

Proofing is when a baker lets the dough rise. Longer proofing times lead to softer breads with larger pores. The subjects in the study rated the fluffier bread with the longest proofing time as noticeably more salty, even though each bite actually contained less salt. "Appropriate modification of crumb texture thus leads to enhanced saltiness, suggesting a new strategy for salt reduction in bread," say the researchers, according to a November 20, 2013 news release, "Reducing the salt in bread without losing saltiness, thanks to a texture trick."

Researchers acknowledge funding from the Research Association of the German Food Industry (FEI), the AiF and the German Ministry of Economics and Technology. The American Chemical Society is a nonprofit organization chartered by the U.S. Congress.

With more than 163,000 members, ACS is the world's largest scientific society and a global leader in providing access to chemistry-related research through its multiple databases, peer-reviewed journals and scientific conferences. Its main offices are in Washington, D.C., and Columbus, Ohio.

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