Azodicarbonamide: What Do You Know and Why You Should Care?

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Foodfacts.com wants to help you learn more about what controversial ingredients manufacturers are putting into your foods. Let’s look into the relatively little-known ingredient called Azodicarbonamide. If you enjoy eating bread, donuts, subs and bread-related products while eating out, perhaps you should read this.

Online research indicates that azodicarbonamide is used in the food industry as a food additive, a flour bleaching agent and improving agent. It reacts with moist flour as an oxidizing agent. The main reaction product is biurea (not urea), which is stable during baking. Secondary reaction products include semicarbazide and ethyl carbamate.

The United States allows azodicarbonamide to be added to flour at levels up to 45 ppm. Use of azodicarbonamide as a food additive is banned in Australia and in Europe. In Singapore, the use of azodicarbonamide can result in up to 15 years imprisonment and a fine of $450,000.

The principal use of Azodicarbonamide is in the production of foamed plastics. The thermal decomposition of azodicarbonamide results in the evolution of nitrogen, carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide, and ammonia gases which are trapped in the polymer as bubbles to form a foamed article. Common examples of this application are window and door gaskets, padded floor mats, gym/exercise mats, and shoe soles.

In the UK, the Health and Safety Executive has identified azodicarbonamide as a respiratory sensitiser (a possible cause of asthma) and determined that products should be labeled with “May cause sensitisation by inhalation.”

Azodicarbonamide may cause an allergic reaction in those sensitive to other azo compounds (such as food dyes). The consumption of azodicarbonamide may also heighten an allergic reaction to other ingredients in a food.

One of America’s largest fast food chains uses azodicarbonamide extensively in their breads, and a well-known donut chain uses it in their cooking and preparation of donuts.

In connection with food safety, it has wrongly been claimed that azodicarbonamide is completely decomposed into common, harmless substances during baking, either into urea or (alternatively) into gasses (carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide, nitrogen, and ammonia) Toxicological studies of the reactions of azodicarbonamide show that it is rapidly converted to biurea in dough, which is a stable compound not decomposed upon cooking.

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