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

(mckaysavage/flickr)

(mckaysavage/flickr)

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 FoodBabe.com, 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. Continue reading