What is azodicarbonamide?

Azodicarbonamide is used in the food industry as a food additive because it can function a flour bleaching agent and improve the rise and texture of bread in place of more expensive, i.e. natural, ingredients. It reacts with moist flour as an oxidizing agent. The main reaction product is biurea,  a derivative of urea, which is stable during baking. Secondary reaction products include semicarbazide and ethyl carbamate. These could be carcinogenic, but azodicarbonamide has a GRAS rating  from the FDA. The United States permits the use of azodicarbonamide at levels up to 45 ppm. Yet Australia and Europe have banned the use of azodicarbonamide as a food additive, and in plastics manufacture.

Common foods with this controversial additive are: Sara Lee breads, Orowheat products, Fiber One cereals, Safe Way breads and many more.

The principal use of azodicarbonamide is in the production of foamed plastics as an additive, but it an also be used for making synthetic leather . 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.

Now if your intake of azodicarbonamide is below the GRAS rating max the you should be fine. But this additive is found in many products, so your exposure could potentially be much higher than you think. Read labels carefully and monitor your intake of this carcinogenic non-food additive.

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