Subway’s use of chemicals yields caution

“Eat fresh!” The slogan for Subway suggests that it provides food that is in its prime. Through commercials featuring weight-losing spokesperson Jared Fogle alongside a vaguely named, health-focused parent company called “Doctor’s Associates,” it’s safe to say Subway wants us to associate healthy eating with its chain of sandwich stores. I myself enjoy going to Subway and feel like I am eating something healthy for I have built my own sub, piled it with veggies, and am able to control exactly what is on my sandwich. However it was recently revealed that consumers of Subway sandwiches have not had all the facts about what they were really eating.

On Feb. 5, 2014, word got out that Subway’s bread contained a questionable ingredient: azodicarbonamide, but that Subway vowed to stop using it in the near future. A spokesperson said in a statement that they were “already in the process of removing azodicarbonamide as part of our bread improvement efforts despite the fact that it is [a] USDA and FDA approved ingredient. The complete conversion to have this product out of the bread will be done soon.” (CNN,“Subway to remove chemical from bread,” 2.6.2014)

I had never heard of azodicarbonamide, and upon looking it up, I discovered that it is a chemical that’s found in the rubber of shoes and yoga mats, among other things. The chemical was also used as a bleaching agent in the bread and has also been identified at other fast-food chains such as McDonalds and Burger King. (Los Angelas Times, “Subway will stop using chemical found in yoga mats in its bread”, 2.6.14)

One compelling reason that Subway stopped using the chemical is because of owner Vani Hari, who started a petition about the issue that has since received more than 89,000 signatures. Hari says she is more than pleased with Subway’s response but also wants us to know that at this time, the chemical is at this time still in use, saying, “I’d like to note that current Subway sandwiches still have this ingredient, and I urge everyone not to eat their sandwich bread until they have finally removed the chemical.”

So with azodicarbonamide banned in other countries, how exactly had this chemical been approved by the FDA and allowed to be put in our food? It is claimed to only have a small risk for humans but does contain urethane. A short search online about this chemical will reveal popular uses in industrial rubbers and welding kits alike, which makes it scary to think that we’ve been eating it.

Azodicarbonamide has also been linked to cancer since urethane is a known carcinogen, and the FDA is being pushed to re-evaluate the amount that is allowed to be in food products—and if it should be allowed at all (Jezebel, “Subway sandwich no longer contain chemical found in yoga mats,” 2.7.14).

While many feel as though they have been deceived into eating a potentially harmful chemical, others who have seen no negative effects from consuming the bread might not even care. Every day, we eat food blindly, not considering exactly what is in it. We assumed that Subway was healthy because of its advertisements, slogans and good reviews from friends. We didn’t question the ingredients in the bread because the ingredients are not in our face and everything else sounded just fine.

There has been a major push toward healthy eating, especially with the rate of obesity in the United States rising, particularly in children. Yet, when it comes to healthy eating, many of us, including myself, refuse to ask some important questions about food we don’t prepare, such as food in restaurants, at the dining center here on campus or even in some store-bought items that are not considered natural foods. We may look at calories, fat, and protein amount in our foods, but it may be worthwhile to look deeper into ingredients and questioning what exactly we are putting into our bodies.


—Delaney Fischer ’15 is a neuroscience major.

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