Last week, Subway made an announcement that it is taking the steps to remove the chemical azodicarbonamide from its bread recipe. For those of you who aren't chemists, azodicarbonamide is a plastic-based additive that's used by those who produce bread on a mass scale as a "dough strengthener." It's also used in shoe soles and yoga mats, which does not paint the most appetizing of pictures.
Now, this announcement didn't just come out of the blue, with corporate honchos at Subway feeling that maybe their customers shouldn't be wrapping their toppings in baked yoga mats. It came about because a food blogger -- Vani Hari, who writes over at FoodBabe.com -- called attention to the problematic ingredient, gathered enough signatures on a petition to make some noise, and forced the supergiant's hand.
This is a big deal.
First and foremost, the ingredient change shows just how far simple consumer activism can go. According to every news story regarding the yoga mat exorcism, Hari gathered a tad over 67,000 signatures on her petition. While that seems like a lot, it's a minuscule percentage of how many customers walk into Subway on a daily basis. Still, that number was large enough to get the requisite media attention, which coerced Subway into believing that whatever cost it took to change the ingredient was a cost worth paying.
Which is to say: If you think a petition isn't enough to enact change, well, this is proof to the contrary. It does happen.
Here are five ingredients that should be next on the chopping block.
L-cysteine in McDonald's Baked Apple Pies
While it's easy to find fault with most of the items at McDonald's, the baked apple pie has always been a refuge of sorts for the foodies among us. It's cheap, it's delicious, it may not be good for you, but what desserts really are? But that excuse should probably go the way of Grimace, seeing that among the 35 listed ingredients in one of their apple pies is the "dough conditioner" L-cysteine, an item that's mostly composed of duck feathers and/or human hair.
Silicon dioxide in Wendy's Beef Chili
Buried deep in the ingredients listings on their website -- which is certainly not easy to find; you have to investigate for a tiny link to the PDF of nutritional information, and then subsequently scroll through 10 pages of other information before finding ingredients -- is the information regarding what's in the chili at Wendy's. Among the items: Silicon dioxide, listed as an "anticaking agent," which you may be familiar with if you've ever had that annoying sensation of finishing up your day at the beach by sticking your bare feet back into your shoes without washing off. Yes, silicon dioxide is sand. There's sand in Wendy's chili.
Dimethylpolysiloxane in McDonald's French Fries
Ever make fries at home? It's pretty easy to do. All you need to do is cut up a potato, throw in a whole bunch of salt and oil, and bake 'em for about a half an hour. Healthy, they are not. But homemade fries, unlike McDonald's offerings, don't contain a whopping 17 ingredients, including "natural beef flavor" and the "antifoaming agent" dimethylpolysiloxane, a silicone that's also used in Silly Putty. Which isn't to give a pass to other fast food fries. The Natural-Cut fries at Wendy's also contain dimethylpolysiloxane, while Burger King's variety contains 13 ingredients of their own.
Cellulose in Taco Bell Seasoned Beef
Oh, man, are there a lot of ingredients throughout every mention of the "seasoning" that gives the beef at Taco Bell its specific flavor. But the one that sticks out over the rest is cellulose. Or, as its known by its more common name, "wood pulp." And unfortunately it's not only Taco Bell throwing cellulose in their products. It's seemingly all over the place nowadays, partially because it ups the fiber content while dropping fat levels. Because, you know, you're eating wood pulp. Read your labels, folks.
Beef Fat in Pretty Much Everything From Hostess
Ever enjoy one of those delectable Hostess fruit pies? Or those mini chocolate cupcakes with swirly white frosting on top? Or the Great Survivor, the Twinkie? While enjoying those various Hostess treats, you've also been downing a whole bunch of beef fat while you're at it. Sorry, vegetarians!
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