Meet Vani Hari. She’s a self-described organic “food activist” who apparently hates chemicals in commercially produced food.
Today, it seems, she’s won a big battle with Subway saying it will remove an ingredient from its bread called azodicarbonamide. It’s super scary, guys, because it’s used in the production of Yoga Mats.
Vani’s blog/online organic food store, called “Food Babe” says this ingredient is DANGEROUS. The Chicago Tribune, regrettably, weighed in with the headline: “Subway removing yoga mat chemical from bread.” Which is like saying that Coca Cola is “removing a packing peanuts ingredient from soda” by switching from corn-based sugar to cane sugar. Or, as friend of the blog Jeryl Bier notes on Twitter:
Vani’s campaign against azodicarbonamide is a classic scare campaign, a common theme on her website. She urges readers “beware of MONSANTO Butter” because “Choosing the wrong type of butter can secretly ruin your health without you even knowing it!” And, she made it on television with LABEL GMOs signs during Tom Vilsack’s speech at the Democratic National Convention. A real go-getter.
Don’t worry, though, Vani’s blog has you covered with an “Organic, Non-GMO, Real Food, Weight Loss” plan that you can sign up for at the low, low price of $17.99 a month. Beware of people who immediately have the solution to the problems they are complaining about.
Vani is not a scientist or medical expert. (Nor am I, for that matter.) In an interview, she shared her unique take on appendicitis:
“One night, I felt a sharp, intense pain in my stomach. It was probably the best thing that ever happened to me. I discovered my appendix was going to burst and I needed to have surgery immediately to have it removed. Since that day, my life has been changed forever. They say having appendicitis is random, but I think that is just not true. I know my lifestyle of high stress and poor nutrition caused this horrible thing to happen to my body.”
And a star was born!
Yes, lots of countries have banned azodicarbonamide because they’re fearful it could cause health problems. But the World Health Organization isn’t so sure those studies were done very well. They conclude in their evaluation of azodicarbonamide’s health effects that:
“The limited toxicology database and lack of exposure data make it difficult to adequately assess the risk to humans potentially exposed; hence, there is a need for further information.”
Website Food Navigator USA notes, correctly, that the FDA has deemed azodicarbonamide safe for human consumption. It also notes, incorrectly, that the WHO “linked the chemical to asthma and other respiratory issues, concluding that ‘exposure levels should be reduced as much as possible.'”
The World Health Organization did not link azodicarbonamide to asthma and respiratory issues regarding food consumption, as they suggest. Here’s the line from the report:
The key word, here is occupational exposure. Unless your job is to eat Subway sandwich bread, your exposure to azodicarbonamide is not occupational. I kid, but the azodicarbonamide skeptics at Undergroundhealth.com understand this, saying: “Even a chemical that produces a disease such as asthma in its raw concentrated form is not tuned to the natural state of the human metabolism and does not belong in our food at any ANY dosage.”
And I don’t agree with that logic because lots of airborne things can cause asthma. According to the NIH:
Many substances in the workplace can trigger asthma symptoms, leading to occupational asthma. The most common triggers are wood dust, grain dust, animal dander, fungi, or chemicals.
I suppose by the logic that fungi can cause occupational asthma, we should ban the consumption of mushrooms, too.
Azodicarbonamide should be celebrated, not scorned. It keeps bread fresher for a longer period of time. You know, like “eat fresh”? It saves consumers money that way. The smear campaign against it comes from people who also wrongly smear GMO crops that save millions of lives.
And yes, yoga mats really ARE scary. Hopefully they’ll remove the bread ingredients from them as soon as possible.
Further Reading: A Canadian chemist from McGill University shares his thoughts here.