As anyone who practices yoga and eats Subway sandwiches knows, sometimes food can contain the same ingredient as something that, well, is not food. Last year the sandwich chain removed from its bread the chemical azodicarbonamide, which is also found in yoga mats.
It’s uncertain if azodicarbonamide presents a risk at the levels it was used in the dough, however, and that science is similarly unclear for many food additives. Scientists are still figuring out at what doses commonly used chemicals are truly safe—and when and how they might cause harm.
The Food and Drug Administration classifies all of the following ingredients as Generally Recognized as Safe or GRAS—meaning the additives are subject to review but it’s OK to consume them in small amounts as long as qualified experts say so. The problem is, those experts often have a conflict of interest and are on the payroll of the food companies seeking approval for their additives.
The Environmental Working Group recently came out with a list of chemicals lurking in food, and it’s worth noting that some of those additives, like azodicarbonamide, are used in completely inedible products—such as sunscreen and coal tar.