Azodicarbonamide is a chemical used to make shoes, yoga mats, a variety of plastic products, and … bread? American supermarkets are crawling with the chemical, also known as ADA, according to the Environmental Working Group, which today released a report identifying almost 500 food products that use it. Most of the foods were bread-like—things like hot dog buns, bagels, pizza, tortillas—and they came from brands ranging from Wonder Bread to those marketed as healthy, like Village Health.
The World Health Organization says there's "abundant evidence" that ADA can cause asthma and skin sensitization, according to Reuters. It also releases the carcinogen urethane when baked. In plastics, it's used to make materials more flexible. For bakers, it bleaches flour, making dough easier to work, and bread fluffier. ADA was thrust into the public eye earlier this month when FoodBabe.com launched a petition demanding that Subway stop using it. The chain acquiesced, but said it believed the chemical was safe—and some scientific experts do agree; one tells Bloomberg that toasting bread creates far more urethane than ADA.