If you had trouble pronouncing the last word in the title of this article, you are not alone. It’s quite the tongue twister. In fact, it sounds like the name of an industrial chemical used in the plastics and rubber industry. Oh wait, it is. So why do I care about it? Because the same chemical is also used in the baking industry for things like hamburger buns and bread.
Commercial bakeries use azodicarbonamide to bleach the flour, making it whiter. In addition, this additive changes the structure of the dough, strengthening it and adding elasticity. Apparently, these are desired traits for Big Food companies like Subway, Sara Lee, McDonalds, Wendy’s, Arby’s and Starbucks. This issue with this chemical is whether or not it’s actually safe to consume. The US FDA (Food & Drug Administration) classifies this additive as GRAS (Generally Recognized As Safe) and allows it in baked goods and flour up to the limit of 45 part per million. Sounds like a miniscule amount; but then again, if this additive might cause respiratory issues and possibly even be a carcinogen, should there really be ANY of it in my food? The European Union, Singapore, Australia, and New Zealand all think this food additive is not worth the risk and have banned it’s use as a bleaching agent.
Vani Hari, aka The Food Babe, did a little investigation and found that Subway uses the additive in at least eight of their popular sandwich breads including: 9-Grain Wheat, 9-Grain Honey Oat, Italian White, Italian Herbs & Cheese, Parmesan/Oregano, Roasted Garlic, Sourdough, and Monterrey Cheddar. It is interesting to note that Subway does NOT use this additive in their restaurants overseas because they can’t (because they’re banned!). This really got under the Food Babe’s skin, but what really pushed her over the edge was when the First Lady, the American Heart Association and several Olympic athletes began touting Subway as “fresh” and “nutritious” meals. After repeated requests for a response, she decided to launch a full-scale petition to get Subway to remove azodicarbonamide from their breads.
We give kudos to the Food Babe for launching this campaign and for pointing out the hypocrisy of Subway having two versions of the same breads (the crappy one from all us Americans and the “clean” version for those abroad). Click here to sign the petition and ask Subway to remove azodicarbonamide from their breads.
The dairy industry is in the process of making an attempt that may or may not surprise you: asking that the “artificially sweetened” label be dropped from dairy products when they contain sweeteners such as aspartame. In this day and age, it seems as though companies and industries are becoming sneakier and sneakier with the ingredients placed in their products. However, if this specific measure is approved by the FDA, serious implications could occur.
Newsflash: Corn sugar will not be the new name for high fructose corn syrup.
Back in 2010, the Corn Refiners Association (“CRA”) filed a petition with the FDA asking them for permission to use the term “corn sugar” as an alternate common name for high fructose corn syrup (“HFCS”). After 20 months of waiting, the FDA finally responded and surprisingly, they gave the CRA a big fat no.
Today is a historic day. The Just Label It (JLI) Campaign announced this morning that a record-breaking one million Americans of all political persuasions have called on the FDA to label genetically engineered (GE) foods.
The campaign also announced a new national survey revealing that Americans across the political spectrum stand united in support of labeling food that has been genetically engineered. “Pink slime, deadly melons, tainted turkeys, and BPA in our soup have put us all on notice that what we eat and feed our families is critically important,” said Ken Cook, President of the Environmental Working Group, a JLI partner. “Americans overwhelmingly demand safety, transparency and labeling of genetically engineered foods. It’s time for the FDA to come clean and restore public confidence in our food system.”
Since October, JLI, (www.justlabelit.org), the national campaign to require GE-food labeling and its more than 500 partner organizations have spearheaded an historic number of public comments for a GE-foods labeling petition (Docket #FDA 2011-P-0723-001/CP). Be Food Smart is proud to be one of these 500 partner organizations. March 27 is the date when the FDA is required to respond to the petition. It took less than 180 days to accumulate the record number of comments.
Jeremy Seifert and his friends eat trash on a regular basis. They are not homeless. They’re 30-something, Angelenos, who rescue enormous amounts of foods from Los Angeles’ supermarket dumpsters and eat it. Sound crazy? It is. But the crazy part is not Seifert, it’s the 96 BILLION pounds of food that we waste in America every year.
“…we’re feeding our landfills as much as our country…Why is all this food being thrown out and not given to people who need it?”
Seifert saw first hand how much food grocery stores threw away. He learned that half of all the food prepared in the US and Europe never gets eating. Seifert decided that this underbelly of our society needed to be exposed and he created a documentary appropriately named, Dive! Below is the 2-minute trailer for the film which has been showing nationwide at film festivals and private screenings since 2009.
Yesterday, the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) formally petitioned the US Food and Drug Administration to change legislation on a very popular additive, caramel coloring. Specifically, CSPI requested that the GRAS (Generally Recognized as Safe) status for caramel coloring produced with ammonia be revoked:
“…request the Commissioner of Food and Drugs to revoke sections 21 CFR 73.85 and 21 CFR 182.1235 (generally recognized as safe or ‘GRAS’ regulation),… which authorize the use in foods of caramel colorings that are produced by means of an ammonia or ammonia-sulfite process and contain 2-methylimidazole and 4-methylimidazole, both of which are carcinogenic in animal studies.”
This includes Caramel Coloring III (used in soy sauce, gravy, beer) and Caramel Coloring IV (used in beverages and colas), both of which are produced with ammonia. In the petition, CSPI indicates that reactions occur when carbohydrates and ammonia are used to produce caramel coloring and form by-products including 2- and 4-methylimidazole (“2-MI” and “4-MI” or “4-MEI”). This chemical pair have been shown carcinogenic in animal studies. One interesting point that CSPI makes is that caramel coloring in soft drinks are typically used to make the soda its customary brown color. This is purely cosmetic and could be substituted with something else or omitted from drinks such as Coke and Pepsi without sacrificing much taste.
The CSPI petition also requested that the FDA change the names which are permitted for these types of caramel coloring and not allow caramel coloring in products which are labeled “natural,” due to the highly processed and chemical nature of these additives.
“… the FDA immediately should change the name ‘caramel coloring’ to ‘chemically modified caramel coloring’ or ‘ammonia-sulfite process caramel coloring’ …and should not allow products to be labeled ‘natural’ if they contained any type of caramel coloring.”
This information is very relevant to today’s shopper since caramel coloring is found in thousands of foods INCLUDING so called health food. Start paying attention to this additive as you study your ingredient labels. To read a full report on the different types of caramel coloring, other possible health effects and allergy information, click here.
Center for Science in the Public Interest
Image: Vinni via Flickr
Today, the Corn Refiners Association (CRA) issued a press release stating that they are petitioning the FDA for the option to use the term “Corn Sugar” as an alternative to High Fructose Corn Syrup. Their main goal? To eliminate consumer confusion.
“Consumers need to know what is in their foods and where their foods come from and we want to be clear with them. The term ‘corn sugar’ succinctly and accurately describes what this natural ingredient is and where it comes from – corn.” – Audrae Erickson, CRA President
Wow, where do I begin. First, could this new initiative have anything to do with the nasty consumer backlash the CRA has experienced against HFCS? I’m starting to see “No HFCS” on all sorts of products. Do you think the HFCS manufacturers are starting to feel a pinch to their bank accounts? Consumer groups and active shoppers have sent manufacturers a message: they don’t want HFCS in their foods. What does the CRA do? Hey, we got it, let’s just change the name!
Second point, “eliminate consumer confusion?” The only confusion consumers will have if this petition is approved is trying to remember to look for Corn Sugar and HFCS on ingredient labels. There is not a clearer example of a group trying to hide their product behind a new name in hopes people won’t notice.