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Azodicarbonamide sources, health risks

Friday, October 13, 2017 by

Azodicarbonamide (ADA) is a name you can use in polite conversation to raise some hackles. The chemical substance, sometimes referred to as azobisformamide, is used by many fast food chains to improve the condition of their dough. ADA helps bread rise faster (and at a much larger volume) and extends its shelf life. It is no wonder then why brands such as Wendy’s, Subway, and McDonald’s prefer to use ADA for their burger or sandwich buns.

Unfortunately, third party reviews of the substance have concluded that the compound can be a potential carcinogenic. A specific substance, semicarbazide, is released when ADA is heated. This reactive byproduct and its health effects prompted United States Senator Charles E. Schumer to call for a national ban of ADA in 2014. His vociferous pleas — while slightly subdued under media spotlight — were left unheard. The Food and Drug Administration still lists azodicarbonamide as safe for use.

In response to the public outrage caused by Mr. Schumer, some stores such as Subway announced that they would stop using the chemical in their stores. Nevertheless, a vast majority of other fast food chains still use ADA.

Australia and the European Union have banned azodicarbonamide as a food additive. The compound can still be used as a preservative agent for shoe soles or yoga mats, among other things.

Harmful effects that can be caused by azodicarbonamide

Numerous health regulatory groups have concluded that ADA can increase the risk of asthma or worsen already present respiratory conditions. The additive is noted by the World Health Organization (WHO) to sensitize people’s noses and raise the risk of an allergic reaction.

Regular consumption of azodicarbonamide can cause diarrhea, cyanosis (blue or purplish skin discoloration), or dyspnoea (labored breathing). ADA likewise affects the gut microbiota, causing people to become more susceptible to disease. One of the more common side effects of azodicarbonamide is mild to moderate depression. Recent metabolic reviews on the substance showed that those that consume azodicarbonamide are more likely to practice unhealthy lifestyle habits, least of which is indulging in high-fat, high-processed, sugary foods such as fast food.    

Most controversial of all is that azodicarbonamide can cause cells to mutate and form a tumor. It acts the same way as other carcinogenic substances, damaging healthy cells and causing them to multiply at extreme rates.

Azodicarbonamide is hazardous in its pure powder form as well. It is highly flammable and can be harmful to aquatic life. Those that handle ADA as a powder should be extremely cautious. The substance is corrosive and can cause an allergic skin reaction.

Body systems harmed by azodicarbonamide

ADA is bad for the entire body. It works on a cellular level, disrupting natural processes and prompting sickness.

When exposed to its pure powder form, azodicarbonamide can start an allergic reaction.

Where to learn more


Azodicarbonamide is a controversial preservative used mostly in improving the machinability of dough. It is a commonly used ingredient among fast food chains. Many health groups state that the chemical substance is a potential carcinogen. It is banned as a food additive in Australia and in the European Union. The FDA still considers it as generally safe for use.

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