This story was updated on Feb. 10.
TORONTO — Mmmmm, a delicious six-inch Subway sub with a side of chemicals said to be used in yoga mats and shoe soles.
The U.S. sub sandwich chain said it’s working to remove an ingredient called azodicarbonamide from its bread. Turns out, the chemical additive is also in the Canadian sandwich and officials here are in the process of eliminating it from the recipe.
“I can confirm for you that the product improvement measures being undertaken by the U.S. do also apply to Canada,” a Subway Canada spokesperson told Global News.
“We are already in the process of removing azodicarbonamide as part of our bread improvement efforts, even though it is an approved ingredient by federal regulatory agencies. The complete conversion to have this ingredient out of the bread will be done soon,” another statement, issued Thursday, said.
By Monday morning, Subway told Global News that pending further government approvals, the entire conversion process could be wrapped up “within the coming weeks.”
“We are proud of our leadership in this matter and think that other chains and bread manufacturers may soon follow suit,” the company said in a statement on Feb. 10.
Earlier this week, U.S. health food blogger Vani Hari — known as Food Babe — launched a petition calling on the sandwich chain to remove the chemical from its bread. (You might remember her for spearheading a crusade urging Kraft to remove the orange dyes from the iconic Kraft Dinner.)
On her website, she noted that the chemical isn’t used in other countries such as the U.K., across the European Union and in Australia. But it’s readily found in North American subway bread — nine grain wheat, nine grain honey oat, Italian white, Italian Herbs and Cheese, Parmesan Oregano, Roasted Garlic, Sourdough and Monterrey Cheddar breads, to be precise.
The World Health Organization linked azodicarbonamide to respiratory issues, asthma and allergies. Hari says that the chemical is used to make yoga mats, shoe soles and other rubbery objects.
In Subway’s case, it’s being used as a bleaching agent and dough conditioner, which allows them to produce bread faster and cheaper, according to Hari’s petition.
Some 64,000 people have signed the petition already.
“The complete conversion to have this product out of the bread will be done soon,” Subway said in a statement. According to ABC News, the company said the move had nothing to do with the protest and it was “already in the process…as part of our bread improvement efforts.”
Hari told Global News that she’s asking for meetings to learn more about Subway’s timeline but hasn’t heard back.
“It’s obvious the change comes from the mass amount of consumers upset about this ingredient,” she said, pointing to the company’s Facebook page littered with questions about the bread.
“Their swift action is a testament to what power petitions and individuals have,” she told Global.
Azodiacarbonamide is safe when used as an “aging or bleaching” ingredient and as long as it doesn’t exceed 45 parts per million, according to the Food and Drug Administration. The media contact for Subway Canada did not provide details about how much is used in the sandwich bread in Canada.
See Hari’s full petition here.