Just ask your baker
By Joseph Parish
During one of my biology classes in college we were asked to analyze the ingredients which were found in a simple, common, everyday food. Much to my surprise was one of the ingredients which I found contained in a loaf of bread.
Take any bread and read the ingredient list. For our sample we will use a generic 100 percent whole wheat bread. At first it sounds like it would be very beneficial for our health however upon reading the raw products list we quickly discover other wise. Ingredients on the bread wrapper state that it is made from the usual whole wheat flour, sugar, water, yeast, wheat gluten, soybean or canola oil, salt, citric acid, sodium and a host of other minor products, some being familiar while other may not so well recognized.
One of the ingredients that caught my attention was something called azodicarbonamide. Azodicarbonamide is a product which is generally used in the manufacturing of PVC piping and it is an active agent in the foamed plastics and rubber industry. Typical products which contain this chemical include sealing gaskets, automotive padded floor mats, exercise mats and rubber shoe soles.
My first reaction to this chemical which I discovered in my loaf of bread was why is it used at all. I have found that generally anything put in food which is unpronounceable by the common person is not healthy for you. Unfortunately, I was proved correct in my assumption with this product. The World Health Organization has stated that azodicarbonamide is a respiratory sensitizer which is capable of causing drastic respiratory illnesses to workers who have been exposed to it.
Azodicarbonamide is in reality a synthetic chemical used as a human food additive. When used in this manner it is referred to as E927. We find this chemical used as not only a food additive, but as a flour bleaching agent as well (Garuda, 2009). In effect it acts as an oxidizing agent and reacts accordingly with the moist flour of the dough.
As I noticed it being added to my bread my initial question was whether it is safe or not? The manufacturer of the bread places azodicarbonamide in the dough to maintain a spongy feeling in the final product. Further research has revealed that the chemical has been banned from many foreign countries as an unsafe addition to food. In Singapore if you are caught using this chemical in food you are liable for a fine of $450,000 dollars and a prison term of up to 15 years. Australia as well has placed a ban on this chemical as have most Europe nations. America so far has not placed any restrictions on this product and it is allowed to be added to human food at a rate of 45 parts per million (USDA, 2010).
In support of the idea that this chemical is unsafe in foods it is wrongly been proclaimed that azodicarbonamide completely decomposed into harmless chemicals during the baking process. This is simply not true and the final bread product is harmful to humans. It is believed that the primary reason that it is disapproved in European nations is because it is an oxidizer and as such if consumed it creates free radicals within the body which contribute to cancer formation. As health conscious people we should be up in arms with our government for allowing this hazardous chemical to be fed to our families in our food.
You may be asking yourself what you can do since bread is a mainstream staple around the world. First off, always read the package to see what chemicals are in the food you are about to buy. Stop purchasing and consuming any baked produce which contains azodicarbonamide. Avoid fast food establishments such as Subway, Burger King, Dunkin Donuts, McDonalds, KFC and the string of other fast food enterprise. Since you must have bread you are presented with several options. You can purchase the higher priced organic breads or you can simply bake your own.
Garuda. (2009). Azodicarbonamide FCC Grade. Retrieved from http://www.garudaint.com/pdf_tmp/ADAFCC.pdf
USDA. (2010). CFR – Code of Federal Regulations Title 21. Retrieved from http://www.accessdata.fda.gov/scripts/cdrh/cfdocs/cfcfr/CFRSearch.cfm?CFRPart=172&showFR=1&subpartNode=21:126.96.36.199.3.9