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Behavior Change
Subway Eliminating Controversial Compound from Its Bread Dough

Subway announced late last week that it is removing a curious ingredient from its bread — a compound known as azodicarbonamide (or E927), whose other common uses include increasing the elasticity of items such as shoe soles and yoga mats, according to CNN. Though Subway insists the compound is safe and it is commonly added to all types of breads, the company’s decision to remove it comes after pressure from blogger Vani Hari, otherwise known as “Food Babe,” who started a petition to have Subway eliminate the chemical.

Since Subway’s announcement last week, it has been revealed that a number of major U.S. chains including McDonald’s, Burger King, Kentucky Fried Chicken, Starbucks, Arby’s and Dunkin’ Donuts also use the ingredient, which is banned from use in food in Europe and Australia, since the FDA has deemed it safe for use in the States (to put that into context, see Take Part’s handy, recent list of 5 flame retardants, hormones and drugs that the FDA has also deemed safe for us in the US that are banned around the world). According to the CNN report, the Center for Science in the Public Interest says E927 was found to be carcinogenic in lab mice but that its cancer-causing potential in humans is “negligible.” Still, something I’d rather not be eating.

Other recent instances of the public pushing for (and getting) big changes from brands include:

  • 5 Gyres’ consumer campaign, "Get Plastic Off My Face and Out of My Water Now!," which it launched after finding large amounts of microbeads, commonly found in beauty products, polluting the Great Lakes. The organization presented its results to Johnson & Johnson and Procter & Gamble, which prompted J&J’s pledge to eliminate the material from its products. P&G says it will phase out microbeads in products by 2017;
  • the Raise the Bar, Hershey campaign, which pressured Hershey to improve its policies around child labor.
  • The latest victory in Greenpeace’s Detox campaign, fresh after the release of its “Little Monsters” report that revealed toxic chemicals found in children’s clothing from a number of prominent brands — one of which, Burberry, rather promptly committed to a sweeping elimination of all such chemicals from its products by 2020.

In other Subway news, last month the sandwich chain joined the Partnership for a Healthier America and Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move! initiative in a three-year commitment to promote healthier food choices to kids. As part of its commitment, Subway said it will:

  • launch a series of fun, engaging campaigns aimed at increasing fruit and vegetable consumption in children;
  • set and implement new marketing standards to kids;
  • and only offer items on its kids menu — now dubbed Fresh Fit for Kids™ — that meet strong nutritional guidelines informed by federal standards for the national school lunch program, including offering apples as a side and low-fat or non-fat milk or water as a default beverage.
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