Restaurant chain Subway has said it is in the process of removing the chemical azodicarbonamide from its bread, a food additive which in one form is also used to increase elasticity in yoga mats and shoe rubber.
The move to remove the ingredient comes as FoodBabe.com launched a petition that said azodicarbonamide is used in its bread "as a bleaching agent" and called for its removal, using the hashtag #nowaysubway.
But a representative for Subway said their decision to remove this ingredient was already underway before the petition started. In a statement, they pointed out that the chemical was USDA and FDA approved but said: "The complete conversion to have this product out of the bread will be done soon." No further details were given.
For the campaign, "Subway stop using dangerous azodicarbonamide in your bread", food blogger Vani Hari said azodicarbonamide is found in yoga mats and shoe rubber and is reportedly linked to respiratory issues, allergies and asthma.
Her campaign focused on Subway, even though the chemical is used in other food products in the USA, because of its endorsement deals from Olympic athletes and figures such as Michelle Obama, who promote its food as "fresh" and "nutritious".
“Azodicarbonamide is the same chemical used to make yoga mats, shoe soles, and other rubbery objects”, she said. “It’s not supposed to be food or even eaten for that matter. And it’s definitely not “fresh”.
“Subway is using this ingredient as a bleaching agent and dough conditioner which allows them to produce bread faster and cheaper.”
Her petition also highlighted that Subway does not use the ingredient in its breads in Europe, Australia or other countries, and argued that North America "deserves the same safe ingredients that Subway uses around the world".
Ms Hari's campaign has captured the attention of thousands, who have threatened to boycott the chain until they are assured azodicarbonamide is no longer being used in the bread.
One user posted on Subway's Facebook wall: "Just as soon as you let me know that azodicarbonamide is out of your bread, I'll start eating at your restaurants, again. Until then, go fish", while another demanded: "get these chemicals out of our foods in America."
Additional reporting by Associated Press