You probably heard that Subway sandwich bread contained a controversial “yoga mat” chemical, azodicarbonamide (ADA), that a food activist and blogger (  discovered. Vani Hari, creator of, campaigned to remove the chemical from Subway sandwich bread.

Unfortunately, Subway  was just the tip of the “yoga chemical mat in food” iceberg, as a recent analysis by the Environmental Working Group found it in nearly 500 items and more than 130 brands of bread, stuffing, pre-made sandwiches and snacks.

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 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. Over 50 years ago, 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 found that workers handling large amounts of ADA have an increased risk of lung 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. Click here to see the full list of foods that contain ADA.

There’s no good reason, period for this chemicals to be in food at all from a medical perspective.

I honestly don’t know how this is legal. It’s unacceptable that major food companies are using an unnecessary and potentially harmful chemical in their products, when it’s clear they can make food without it,” said Hari. “These questionable additives are not supposed to be food or even eaten for that matter, but they do end up in the U.S. food supply and are consumed by millions of people, including children, every day.”

The information detailed in the EWG analysis is based on data from FoodEssentials, a company that compiles the ingredients and claims made on foods sold in American supermarkets. It was gathered before Feb. 11 and represents a snapshot of the foods recently on the market.

“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.

EWG recommends shoppers consult the list of products made available today and read labels to find out if ADA or other chemical additives are in their food and to take steps to reduce exposure to them.

Here are the Top Five Foods That Contain ADA That Might Surprise You:

5. Tortillas (Amigos)
4. Breakfast Sandwiches (Ihop, Jimmy Dean)
3. Stuffing (Bell’s, Food Club, Hormel, White Rose)
2. Pasta (Betty Crocker pasta salad; Roundy’s Italian Sausage Tortelloni and Meat & Fine Herbs Ravioli)
1. Meat (Hungry-Man Roasted Carved White Meat Turkey, Kid Cuisine Kc’s Campfire Hot Dog)


1. Always read your food labels. If there’s a chemical listed, research in on the internet

2. Limit your intake of processed and prepared foods as much as possible