Senator Charles Schumer Calls for Ban on Chemical Used in Bread that Obama’s FDA Says is Safe as Used

Reason: It’s Also Used in Yoga Mats

Washington, DC – The following is the response of Jeff Stier, director of the National Center’s Risk Analysis Division, to the call of Senator Charles Schumer (D-NY) for a ban on azodicarbonamide after Subway restaurants removed the FDA-approved substance from its bread in response to an activist’s petition:

Subway’s move came as a result from pressure from Vani Hari, a blogger who calls herself “The Food Babe.”

The move had everything to do with public relations and nothing to do with food safety. Bread itself, by virtue of being a baked carbohydrate, has the carcinogen acrylamide in it. That doesn’t mean it is dangerous at the levels humans consume it.

While Subway is free to market itself however it wishes, the move sets a dangerous policy precedent.

Ms. Hari’s central argument against azodicarbonamide is that the chemical is also used in yoga mats. And shoes. Really.

If this is the new standard, obesity isn’t going to be a problem anymore – starvation is.

It was only a matter of days until Senator Schumer called for an FDA ban on azodicarbonamide. In a slap in the face to career scientists at the Obama FDA, which allows azodicarbonamide for the very purpose Subway and other chains use it, Schumer said, “The Subway chain has done it on its own. We’re asking other chains to do it on their own. But we’re asking the FDA to ban it so nobody uses it.”

This is a classic example of governing by bullying. The government asks for voluntary compliance, but, just in case, it threatens to make that voluntary compliance mandatory.

What Senator Schumer fails to realize is that if we use his simplistic standard fairly, his approach would put a slew of his state’s businesses out of business. The Senator says, “When it comes to carcinogens, we can’t be too careful. Cancer’s on the rise. We’re never quite sure why. Why not be safe rather than sorry?”

We have an entire field of science – toxicology-risk assessment – and Senator Schumer wants to throw it all out the window and demand that the FDA ignore the science and ban a chemical because activists have catchy but foolish slogans, such as “We shouldn’t eat foods with ingredients we can’t pronounce.”

Other chains that use the chemical include McDonald’s, Burger King, Wendy’s, Arby’s, Jack in the Box, Chick-fil-A and Dunkin Donuts.

I am concerned that the activists have set the standard so low, and Subway, for one, showed weakness by not defending the safety of its ingredients, that before you know it, we’ll have calls to disassemble modern food production, going after a different FDA-approved ingredient each week.

When activist bloggers who call themselves things like “Food Babes” and Senators like Chuck Schumer exhibit reckless disregard for science-based food policy, one has got to wonder why we even have an FDA in the first place. It appears that activists and headline-hungry political hacks are the ones who make food policy when industry fails to defend the safety of the ingredients they’d served their healthy customers for years.

New York City-based Jeff Stier is a Senior Fellow at the National Center for Public Policy Research in Washington, D.C., and heads its Risk Analysis Division. Stier is a frequent guest on CNBC, and has addressed health policy on CNN, Fox News Channel and MSNBC, as well as network newscasts. Stier’s National Center op-eds have been published in top outlets, including the Los Angeles Times, the New York Post, Newsday, Forbes, the Washington Examiner and National Review Online. He also frequently discusses risk issues on Twitter at @JeffaStier.

Stier has testified at FDA scientific meetings, met with members of Congress and their staff about science policy, met with OMB/OIRA officials, and has submitted testimony to state government legislative hearings. Most recently, he testified before the science committee of the New York City Council about that city’s ban on public use of e-cigarettes.

The National Center for Public Policy Research, founded in 1982, is a non-partisan, free-market, independent conservative think-tank. Ninety-four percent of its support comes from individuals, less than four percent from foundations, and less than two percent from corporations. It receives over 350,000 individual contributions a year from over 96,000 active recent contributors.

Contributions are tax-deductible and greatly appreciated.


The National Center for Public Policy Research is a communications and research foundation supportive of a strong national defense and dedicated to providing free market solutions to today’s public policy problems. We believe that the principles of a free market, individual liberty and personal responsibility provide the greatest hope for meeting the challenges facing America in the 21st century.