What You Should Know About The 'Yoga Mat Chemical' At Subway

Years of healthy eating campaigns from celebrity chefs, government bodies, and social media icons have created more awareness about what exactly is in the food we eat. Beneficial ingredients and nutrients that promote good health are better understood. The presence of chemicals in our food, and the potential harm they can cause, are under a higher level of scrutiny, too.

One such chemical is informally called the "yoga mat chemical" — not because of its meditative qualities, but due to a less appealing reality: It is a common component of plastic and rubber materials, including yoga mats (via Forbes). The chemical in question is actually called azodicarbonamide (ADA), and, per NBC News, it gained notoriety after word got out that it was in Subway's sandwiches. Subway ended up removing the chemical in 2014.

In food production, the chemical is used to bleach bread and improve its durability and appearance, according to Bakerpedia. The Guardian reports that azodicarbonamide, when baked, creates one byproduct that might cause cancer in humans and another shown to be toxic in animals. ADA has been banned across the European Union for years.

Despite health concerns, the 'yoga mat chemical' is still used

Subway stopped using azodicarbonamide in its bread after widespread public outrage over its use, according to NBC News. However, despite strong consumer feelings, the chemical is still approved for use in the U.S.

The Food & Drug Administration found evidence that the chemicals formed from ADA during bread baking cause cancer only at levels far higher than those found in bread, and only in female mice, according to the FDA website. The website also says ADA is not an essential component of bread baking, and food companies have other approved options.

Although it might be expected that the "yoga mat chemical," as controversial as it is, would have been eradicated from all food processes, you can still find it on fast food menus. After Subway got rid of ADA, McDonald's, Wendy's, Chick-fil-A, and others quickly did the same (via Chicago Tribune). But peruse Arby's ingredient list, and you'll see ADA is still in that chain's croissants.