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Courtney O'Hara (AP) Courtney O'Hara (AP)
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Are you really taking a bite out of your... yoga mat?

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Azodicarbonamide is just a big, hard-to-pronounce, slightly-scary-looking name also known as ADA, or the 'yoga mat chemical.' Over these past few months, health sections of various news organizations have been exploding with articles about ADA, calling it unsafe. Food Babe, a health and nutrition blogger, called Subway out earlier this year for using it in their bread and even launched a petition to have it removed.  

'On Tuesday, Feb. 4, I launched a petition for the removal of a dangerous plastic chemical called azodicarbonamide from Subway sandwich bread the same stuff used in yoga mats, shoe rubber and synthetic leather. This was after repeated attempts to reach out to Subway since June of 2012 to learn more about why they are using this (asthma inducing and potentially carcinogenic) chemical here in North America and not in any other countries. They never responded until now,' Food Babe stated on her blog. 

Hold the phone! Did she say dangerous plastic chemical and sandwich bread in the same sentence? Why would the FDA approve the use such a 'harmful' chemical in nearly 500 food items sold in the USA? The answer: they wouldn't.  

ADA has been reviewed by the Food and Drug Administration and is permitted for human consumption as a direct food additive, according to Kaileigh M. Duym MS RD LD, registered dietitian at Eastern Maine Medical Center. 'This chemical has been approved for over 50 years and is considered safe when following certain conditions, such as being present in an amount no greater than 45 parts per million,' Duym continued. 

This chemical is used as a bleaching agent and/or dough conditioner. ADA is found in hundreds of food products from many popular manufactures including, but not limited to, Betty Crocker, Fiber One, Great Value, Hormel, Hungry-Man, IHOP, Jimmy Dean, Kid Cuisine, Little Debbie, Marie Callender's, Pillsbury, Sara Lee, Smucker's, Sun-Maid, Wonder and Weight Watcher's Smart Ones.

According to Duym, the US approves of this chemical, but Europe has banned its use. 'There is limited data to suggest the amount in a food is deleterious to a human's health. Until more research has been completed to offer more information on azodicarbonamide, it cannot be said definitively whether or not there is a valid risk associated with the chemical.'

Although azodicarbonamide is safe in the doses the FDA allows, Duym suggests purchasing whole foods and cooking from scratch for those who wish to avoid unwanted chemicals in their food. 'This really allows the consumer to control the amount of any given ingredient, as well as make any adjustment for dietary preference or sensitivities.'

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