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Subway Chemical Case Shows Power of Consumer Pressure

Natural FoodsOnce again, a company is changing its products in reaction to consumer pressure – not because of any real threat to human health or the environment.

Subway has agreed to remove the chemical azodicarbonamide, a leavening and bleaching agent, from its bread after a campaign by blogger Food Babe (real name Vani Hari). More than 67,000 people signed the petition after Hari took the company to task for the chemical, which she said is linked to asthma and cancer, and is “the same chemical used to make yoga mats and shoe rubber.”

But a 1999 WHO evaluation found negligible impact on animals, except in massive doses. The USDA says the chemical is “generally recognized as safe.” The documented human danger applies to factory workers’ exposure by inhalation – not to eating foods containing azodicarbonamide.

And the insinuation that people are eating yoga mats is just plain scaremongering.

The case shows that the public’s poor science literacy will continue to affect how companies formulate their products. Hari speaks for many when she says, “If you can’t spell it or pronounce it, you probably shouldn’t eat it.” Presumably, she eats pantothenic acid without even knowing it.

We can expect to see more such chema-phobia cases – along with similar anti-GMO campaigns – in the future.

Takeaway: Safeway has agreed to remove a chemical from its bread based on public outrage, even though the there’s no evidence that consumption is unsafe.

Tamar Wilner is Senior Editor at Environmental Leader PRO.

Picture credit: Matt MacGillivray via flickr

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