Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Azodicarbonamide... Yum!

Here ya go.

Azodicarbonamide... what is it?

Well, let's say I told you that it's in every single one of your Timbits and Subway buns and God only knows what else. There it is.

Is it bad for you?

Well, the EU says yes.

Canada, US and Korea consider it to be GRAS, as in Generally Recognized As Safe and suggest it's not bad for you.

IOW, it's allowed in food products, so long as it doesn't exceed recognized maximum levels. What is that maximum? 45 ppm.

The EU classifies it as Harmful. So it's not allowed in food products at all.

But Canada accepted it... how is that possible? Well, I explored that.

The GRAS in Canada was accepted based on studies done in 2004. So, it's safe, right?

Not so fast.

Unfortunately, THIS study was done while the Tories were running the Government. That means that science isn't of much import. So long as the corporations involved can make a ton of money, they're laughing.

So who isn't laughing?

Well you might not be when you learn that the scientists involved weren't happy with the sketchiness of the data they were given. It was done in the 50s. And the fact that 45 ppm is a lot tricky to calculate on any given batch of anything (Ask me about WHY we have to build a food lab?) Add to the sketchy data and the inability to determine with any kind of accuracy how much is actually in the bread and voila, you have a sketchy food ingredient GRAS approved for the Canadian market.

And do I have to remind you what Tories think of science?

That said is it safe.

Yeah probably. O_o Unless you're European.

So why is the European market so different?

Well, essentially, what it seems to come down to is "what is the ingredient" and "what are you using if for".

In industry, yes, it's part of rubber production. It's actually used in attaching that rubber gasket to food lids. THAT is where the max 45 ppm study applies.

They didn't study whether or not it was edible in burger buns, donuts or sub buns. They looked at the product used in food jar lids and whether or not THAT was dangerous.

So, what do we actually know about this GRAS ingredient as food? We know that it causes serious respiratory problems in the people who work with it. The use of it in the food jar gaskets allows that it has generally evaporated most of its problems BEFORE the lids go onto the jars, and even then, the amount that is ABLE to leech into the food is undetectable. Does that mean it's not there? No, it means their testing systems aren't sensitive enough to determine whether it's in there or not nor in what quantity. So, it's been given the GRAS in North America and Korea.

So, now that you see that there is really nothing wrong with this GRAS Food ingredient in teeny quantities, why is Subway pulling it from Canadian subway buns?

Well, apparently a loudmouthed blogger is the source. So, when Subway, Tim Horton's, Mickey D's, and KFC became front page news over said blogger's efforts, I assume they all started looking at the ingredient for damage control.

What did they learn? Probably what I learned.

It's probably harmless.


I'm in food production... sketchy food ingredients are not acceptable to me. If it's safe, I want to hear, it's definitely safe or it isn't safe, not "it's probably safe".

Well given that GRAS is up to 45 ppm, we needed to know how safe it is in the jars. We use glass jars and these lids have the ADA inthe gasket.

So... What did Health Canada learn? They tested the food products and discovered that the traces were actually below 25 parts per BILLION.

So, in the jars, they're essentially safe. In the food, well, that comes down to how much of it do you eat; because it adds up.

Apparently the Environmental Working Group (the organization that tracks pesticides and chemicals in produce, ie the Dirty Dozen), has called for the FDA to ban the use of it in bread products.

Here's the bad news. Studies that were done that found nearly double the amount of allowable ADA was in bread products. Why? Because in Canada, the ingredient is NOT REQUIRED to be listed on the label.

Interestingly when called on it, Health Canada responded that a thorough safety assessment had been done on the product PRIOR to it's approval in 1964.

Let me say that again...


The studies in the FDA's toxicology database are all unpublished studies dated 1959.

So, the scientist's response is that any decision made in the 60s on data from the 50s needs to be reviewed. The simple fact that it has been used for over 50 years doesn't mean it's safe. We learned that lesson from many a harmful product that has now wisely been banned from food.

In fact, the ADA's potentially cancer-causing-by-products, semicarbazide and urethane which are created during the baking process were only discovered ten years ago. That's when the bread comes into play.

Is it safe in the bread?

Well, in Europe, you're not allowed to put it into food and it is not allowed to be used specifically on baby food jars, because THEIR jury is still out. You can use it on regular jars, because 25 ppB isn't significant.

My jury is still out. So, I'm going to err to the side of caution.

If it's on the jar lid, chances are I'm safe. If it's in the food, I'm not eating it.

You decide how YOU want to proceed.

The EU results: http://www.efsa.europa.eu/en/press/news/afc050701.htm

See, all that sensass to get your attention long enough to read this diatribe was worth it.

Will you be having a Big Mac today? Timbits?

Both KFC and Subway have taken my stance of erring to the side of caution. Tim Horton's and Mickey D's? Not so much.

Bon appetit!

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