Yoga Mat Chemical For Sponginess Found In Many Popular Foods, Group Reports

This article is more than 7 years old.

I love my yoga mat as much as the next guy — it brings me peace, relaxation, calm. But I wouldn't consider eating it. Now, it seems, I may have already taken a nibble.

The health advocacy organization Environmental Working Group today announced that its researchers found azodicarbonamide, or ADA — the industrial chemical that makes yoga mats (and flip-flops) light, spongy and malleable — listed as an ingredient in 500 popular items and "in more than 130 brands of bread, bread stuffing and snacks, including many advertised as healthy."

(Update on 2/28: "In response to recent coverage surrounding the use of the FDA-approved food additive azodicarbonamide, Nature’s Own brand of soft variety and premium specialty breads, buns, and rolls, issued the following statement today:

Nature’s Own bakery foods do not contain azodicarbonamide. We removed this additive from all Nature’s Own bakery foods in 2013, and it is no longer used in any Nature’s Own products.")

Here's more from the EWG news release:

The controversial “yoga mat” chemical that Vani Hari, creator of, campaigned to remove from Subway sandwich bread has turned up in nearly 500 items and more than 130 brands of bread, stuffing, pre-made sandwiches and snacks, according to an analysis by the Environmental Working Group.

[Subway did ultimately remove the chemical from its sandwich bread.]

According to ingredient data obtained for a new food database project that is due out later this year, EWG researchers found azodicarbonamide, an industrial “chemical foaming agent,” on the labels of many well-known brands, including Pillsbury, Sara Lee, Shoprite, Safeway, Smucker’s, Fleischman’s, Jimmy Dean, Kroger, Little Debbie, Tyson, Nature’s Own and Wonder...

ADA is a synthetic substance used by plastics makers to generate tiny bubbles that make materials light, spongy and strong. These materials show up in flip-flops, yoga mats and many types of foam packing and insulation. In 1956, a New Jersey pharmaceutical and engineering firm discovered that ADA could be used as a “dough conditioner” to make bread that would rise higher, stay soft and resilient and form an attractive crust. The federal Food and Drug Administration approved its use as a food additive six years later.

The World Health Organization has linked ADA to increased risk of respiratory problems and skin irritation in workers handling large volumes of the chemical. The additive has not undergone extensive testing to determine its health effects on humans.

“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,” said David Andrews, Ph.D., EWG senior scientist and co-author for the analysis. “Americans have regularly eaten this chemical along with hundreds of other questionable food 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.”

The FDA allows ADA in U.S. food in concentrations up to 45 parts per million. It is not approved for use as a food additive in either the European Union or Australia.

EWG is calling on food manufacturers to immediately end its use of ADA in food. The organization will launch an online campaign to raise public awareness of the widespread use of this chemical in food and to urge companies that have been using it to drop it from their ingredients immediately.

The full list is here.

Rachel Zimmerman Twitter Health Reporter
Rachel Zimmerman previously reported on health and the intersection of health and business for Bostonomix.




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