Feb 28 2014

More Yoga Mat Hysteria

The “yoga mat chemical” (azodicarbonamide) is the latest food-based fearmongering, thanks to an unscientific petition by the self-described “food babe,” who apparently feels that she is qualified because she is a computer scientist. (Well, it has the word “science” in it.)

Unfortunately, the “yoga mat chemical” is an effective meme. Who wants to eat something that can be found in a yoga mat? Many journalists, such as Lindsay Abrams, have bought into the meme without any critical analysis. Abrams helpfully provides a list to her readers of “500 more foods containing the yoga mat chemical.”

Here are some other foods her readers might also want to reconsider:

This popular health food can also be found in industrial lubricants, solvents, cleaners, paints, inks adhesives and hydraulic fluid. It is burned as fuel. It is also used to make foam found in, “coolers, refrigerators, automotive interiors and even footwear.” It is used to make carpet backing and insulation.

But the worst part is – it is also used to make yoga mats.

This other “yoga mat” food is also known as soy. So think twice before eating that next tofu burger. (Hat tip to “Ziggy” for bringing up this example.)

The food babe also gives this helpful advice:

“When you look at the ingredients, if you can’t spell it or pronounce it, you probably shouldn’t eat it.”

Let’s see if we can apply this rule of thumb to help us decide what foods are likely to be healthy. Here are some lists of ingredients, see if you can pronounce them:

1- Oleic acid, Linoleic acid, Palmitic acid, Stearic acid, α-Linolenic acid, polyphenols, oleocanthal, oleuropein, aldehydic secoiridoids, flavonoids, acetoxypinoresinol, pinoresinol, hydroxytyrosol

2 – 2,3,5-TRIMETHYLPHENOL, 2-ETHYLPHENOL, 2-METHOXY-4-ETHYLPHENOL, 2,4-METHYLENEPHENOL, DICAFFEOYL-QUINIC ACID, 4-ETHYLPHENOL, 4-METHOXY-4-VINYLPHENOL, ACETALDEHYDE, CAFFEINE, CAFFEOL, CAFFEOYL-3-QUINIC ACID, CAFFETANNIC ACID, CHLOROGENIC ACID, CITRIC ACID, DATURIC ACID, GUAIACOL, HYPOXANTHINE, ISOCHLOROGENIC ACID, PUTRESCINE, SCOPOLETIN, SPERMIDINE, SPERMINE, SUGARS, TANNIC ACID, TANNIN, THEOBROMINE, THEOPHYLLINE, THIAMIN, TRIGONELLINE, XANTHINE

3 – Alpha-Linolenic-Acid, Asparagine, D-Categin, Isoqurctrin, Hyperoside, Ferulic-Acid, Farnesene, Neoxathin, Phosphatidyl-Choline, Reynoutrin, Sinapic-Acid, Caffeic-Acid, Chlorogenic-Acid, P-Hydroxy-Benzoic-Acid, P-Coumaric-Acid, Avicularin, Lutein, Quercitin, Rutin, Ursolic-Acid, Protocatechuic-Acid

I could go on, but you get the point. These are olive oil, coffee, and apples, respectively. Did you know that coffee has putrescine in it? You could, of course, go over each an every chemical ingredient and show that in high enough doses they are deadly toxins, they probably should’t be breathed in, and factory workers might be at risk if directly exposed to the purified or aerosolized form.

When confronted with my criticism that claiming that azodicarbonamide is linked to asthma in the context of a petition to remove it from bread is misleading, because it does not trigger or cause asthma when consumed, it is only a risk to factory workers breathing in the raw chemical, the food babe responded (I’m paraphrasing) – don’t those scientists care about the factory workers? Nice way to move the goalpost. 

Of course we care about the safety of factory workers. If it were found that azodicarbonamide could not be safely used, then I would understand and favor its banning. However, industrial workers are potentially exposed to all sorts of harmful chemicals. That is why there are regulations to protect them – requiring proper ventilation, breathers, working under hoods, eye protection, and other safety measures. I also think we should put as much distance between workers and harmful chemicals as possible.

If one is going to make the case that azodicarbonamide should be banned because of its risk to workers, then we need more than just a study showing it is a mild asthma trigger. How is it handled? Are safety measures adequate? Are there any cases of actual harm? How does it compare to other things that workers are potentially exposed to? Many people have pointed out that flour itself is potentially very dangerous (the food babe has no problem with flour, cause it’s natural). Breathing in flour dust is very dangerous, probably more so than azodicarbonamide. Flour dust is flammable. There were 115 reported flour dust explosions between 1994 and 2003.

What the food babe is engaging in is fear mongering of “chemicals” and anything “unnatural.” This is not a rational or science-based position. Everything we eat is made of chemicals (many with long and difficult to pronounce names). Natural vs unnatural does not matter at all.

It is also misleading to think of some chemicals as “toxins.” This is a false dichotomy. Everything is potentially toxic depending on dose and route of administration. I agree that we need scientific evidence and regulations to keep human exposure to substances far below the level where there is any harm to health. I agree with the principle that we should err on the side of caution. I don’t think corporations should have free reign.

What we need is a rational science-based conversation about the evidence and how best to protect human health in our complex industrialized civilization. Fearmongering based on pseudoscience and logical fallacies that fosters a misunderstanding of the relevant science and seeks to replace an evidence-based process with populist movements that are the equivalent of angry mobs with torches and pitch forks, is not the answer.

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103 responses so far

103 Responses to “More Yoga Mat Hysteria”

  1. carbonUniton 28 Feb 2014 at 10:07 am

    I’m trying to make sense of the wikipedia page http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Azodicarbonamide . It feels as if it tends towards aiding the scare mongering. Someone tried to edit in the Subway controversy but it got taken out again. Seems like the page needs a good skeptical “Controversies” section, with the proper refutations of the Food Babe’s hysteria mongering.

  2. Bill Openthalton 28 Feb 2014 at 10:07 am

    Also — the names came after the substances, when we knew enough chemistry to analyse the (natural) substances and give the components their chemical names.

  3. zorrobanditoon 28 Feb 2014 at 11:18 am

    I am reading in the com box at NYT this morning that fructous, the natural sugar in all fruits, is “toxic.”

    I am hoping that people who run around saying things like this are thereby discrediting their cause, but probably not, probably the next thing we will hear is how dangerous apples are to our health.

  4. Bronze Dogon 28 Feb 2014 at 11:50 am

    It is also misleading to think of some chemicals as “toxins.” This is a false dichotomy. Everything is potentially toxic depending on dose and route of administration.

    Reiterated for emphasis. There really is a nasty tangle of fallacies that reinforce each other, and that false dichotomy is one of the big ones.

    The point about pronounciation and spelling is headdesk worthy as always. They don’t seem to understand that chemistry is something that happens everywhere, not just in flasks of colored, bubbly liquids. They live in an ivory tower is built on the assumption that science is innately separate from their world.

  5. ConspicuousCarlon 28 Feb 2014 at 1:11 pm

    ““500 more foods containing the yoga mat chemical.””

    A list compiled by the idiots the the Environmental Working Group.

  6. tai_fungon 28 Feb 2014 at 1:56 pm

    Steve — THANK YOU for posting this. I’ve been driven crazy by the Food Babe’s antics. She’s driven by webhits and manufactroversy (imho), and it’s incredible how people eat up her nonsense. I really appreciate you taking the time for your write-up.

  7. MaryMon 28 Feb 2014 at 2:02 pm

    I was recently actually surprised to learn that organic cattle can be fed turpentine. http://online.wsj.com/news/articles/SB10001424052702303997604579242722533288250

    Her latest studies have indeed focused on turpentine as an organic-friendly substance—it comes from trees—for ridding cattle of intestinal worms.

    Um, yeah. BUT YOGA MATS1!!

  8. tai_fungon 28 Feb 2014 at 2:34 pm

    I should also point out that “The Food Babe” is a known anti-vaccine advocate:

    http://www.sciencebasedmedicine.org/scam-stud/

    But, she’s been (repeatedly) featured on CNN and who-knows-how-many other networks.

    This is depressing.

  9. carbonUniton 28 Feb 2014 at 5:21 pm

    Wow, the interview audio (linked at “When confronted” in the text and attached as an mp3 file – starting at the 35 minute mark) is just infuriating. She was confronted with Steve’s blog post at the 40 minute mark. Too bad the host of the program let her move the goalposts.

    If you are interested in amateur ‘ham’ radio, you may enjoy the first 35 minutes too.

  10. ccbowerson 01 Mar 2014 at 10:30 am

    “When you look at the ingredients, if you can’t spell it or pronounce it, you probably shouldn’t eat it.”

    The irony is that this is a common perspective by “health food” people who are looking for the next berry or grain that they cannot pronounce. Acai berries are mispronounced more often than pronounced correctly, and there is a funny-ish commercial in which a man grilling a vegetarian burger is wondering what a quinoa is (while mispronouncing is kwee-no). They really want the exotic, dislike the familiar, and detest any appearance of an association with an industry.

    In some ways, I think the internet has become a bit better in terms of having correct information easily accessible, and I think it is due to more people out there correcting the misinformation and improved search results. I do not mean to say that here is a lack of misinformation, because that has also grown in quantitity.

    Perhaps I am being overly optimistic, but I remember that misinformation was more common than correct information early in google searches in the past, and now more balanced results, like Wikipedia pages (which mostly do a decent job) show up towards the top. Search “canola oil” 10 years ago, and you would see 8 of the 10 items on the first page would be telling you its dangers (e.g. it is made from ‘rape’ seeds, that it contains toxins from the poisonous plant, than it is used in industry for lubrication, etc, etc.) Now, I can do the same search and the opposite is true.

    Now, I am not providing this anecdote as evidence, but it is just one example of my observations over the years. It is a game of wack-a-mole, though, and for every wacked mole there is another one, or two, or ten.

  11. Skepticoon 01 Mar 2014 at 12:01 pm

    Forget azodicarbonamide, what about Dihydrogen Monoxide? Accidental inhalation of even a small quantity has been known to cause death and yet it is largely unregulated.

  12. zorrobanditoon 01 Mar 2014 at 12:09 pm

    @ccbowers There is certainly a note of elitism running through all this diet craziness.

    I have a daughter who drives municipal bus for a living. It pays pretty well, courtesy of the union, and it is respectable, necessary work. But I cannot imagine any of her bus driver friends worrying about yoga mat “chemicals,” or knowing how to pronounce “quinoa” – or much caring.

    Reading about the “paleo” diet I learned that potatoes are OK, but only SOME potatoes. Your common russet potato, available in bulk for almost nothing at Safeway is not OK. Only certain exotic, expensive, hard-to-get potatoes are OK; you would probably find them (at a pretty price) at Whole Foods.

    But you knew that, didn’t you, even before I told you.

  13. ccbowerson 01 Mar 2014 at 1:00 pm

    “Only certain exotic, expensive, hard-to-get potatoes are OK; you would probably find them (at a pretty price) at Whole Foods.”

    Yeah, the fad component is not only annoying from that angle, but the sudden increase in demand can drive the prices up in areas of the world in which these products are eaten. This can be a problem for items that are staple foods for people without much money. Yes, ‘the market’ will adjust as the demand increases, but it can be quite disruptive in some situations.

    Now let me go eat some ‘superfood’ you can’t pronounce- not because it is some Monsanto chemical, but because it’s so exotic that it is eaten only in a small village in South America.

  14. DietRichColaon 03 Mar 2014 at 1:53 am

    I have to admit, even though I am a chemist, I find myself falling into the mental trap of delineating “chemicals” in my lab from the everyday substances (or I guess what my brain considers “natural” substances) I constantly interact with. It certainly is an easy pattern to fall into, and when I step back and do some self-examination, I see how it causes me to display seemingly schizophrenic behaviors.

    For instance, I will put on gloves and goggles then use a hand broom and dustpan to clean up a spill of sodium bicarbonate on my lab counter… whereas at home I’d have no issue simply wiping a spill of baking soda off of the counter with a damp paper towel and licking the residue off my fingers (not that baking soda is particularly delicious on its own though). Our brains certainly have a way of putting anything we consider a “chemical” in a special category that causes us to be cautious or frightened of using it, even when it isn’t warranted.**

    **Disclaimer: As someone who teaches in an academic lab environment… my little schizophrenic mental games aside, I’m still going to advocate cleaning up any chemical in the lab with proper PPE and not fault myself TOO bad since it means I’m at least in the habit of following good lab practices. And there isn’t ANY way I’m licking anything after touching those counters…

    But that’s just it… I don’t fault people for having this adverse reaction to “chemicals”… even I find myself doing it and I certainly have the academic degree and information to know better. But it’s what makes things like the Food Babe’s idiotic, self-righteous “advocacy” so infuriating… she is perpetuating this “chemical” myth and feeding into mental misconceptions that are bad enough on their own without her help.

    The truth is, EVERYTHING around us is a chemical. Unless you’re talking atomic elements or subatomic particles… every single thing you interact with in your day to day lives can be classified as a chemical, or multiple chemical substances mixed together. Even proteins and biological molecules are just really big complex chemicals (sorry biologists or biochemists, but they are). So being afraid of “chemicals” being added to our food is ludicrous. As Steve and others have pointed out, you could do the same amount of fear-mongering using pretty much anything… even apples sound scary when described as their chemical components.

    On my way home from work, I pondered the question, “I wonder what the Food Babe would have to say about the compound Calcium Sulfate.” I guess on the surface, that one might make it past her “unable to pronounce” test… hell, she’d probably see the “calcium” and think I’m advocating some sort of dietary supplement.

    But what if I told her it was an industrial drying agent commonly used as a desiccant? Its commercial name is “Drierite”. It often needs to be heated to remove moisture so you can maximize it’s drying potential, but it is also very dusty, which means inhaling the heated particles, a hazard which I most certainly expose my workers to every academic quarter, can cause burns easily in their throat or lungs. Even unheated it can agitate the airways and is an inhalation hazard, and can aggravate asthma symptoms. I require all my workers to wear dust masks when using it. It’s also a “precursor” chemical used to make sulfuric acid. It is mined industrially as gypsum from evaporite beds and sedimentary rocks. Oh, and the hemihydrate (meaning it has 0.5 equivalents of water for every calcium sulfate formula unit) is also commonly referred to as “Plaster of Paris”… that’s right, you can make sculptures out of it. It isn’t used quite as often for this any more, but it used to be the common plaster orthopedic casts were made out of.

    Oh, and did I fail to mention this one other tiny little fact that the Food Babe might care about? It is the primary coagulant in tofu. Including her precious “organic” tofu.

    How would she respond if I wrote a similar article about the “dangers” of calcium sulfate and tried to get all tofu companies to remove it from their products? I’ve got all the same talking points as she does. A “chemical” component used as an additive to food products. It is commonly used as an industrial drying agent (gross, who wants an industrial drying agent in their FOOD?!). Precursor to dangerous chemicals like sulfuric acid (that’s a really nasty one! People have had their faces burned off messing with that!). Workers exposed to the dust of this chemical are in “hazardous” conditions and are forced to wear dust masks. It is a chemical used to make plaster, so what is it doing in our food? (ewww, who wants to eat someone’s nasty arm cast?!!)

    This is literally just ONE example that I thought of on my way home from work after reading this blog. I could do dozens of others. It’s just idiotic. Why is this nasty “chemical” in Food Babe’s organic tofu? Because it is nothing more than a compound that we have discovered that has an effect on the food in a way that we like and want to utilize in our cooking. That’s it. The fact that it is a “chemical” mined from gypsum deposits in Europe, or that it also works great as a plaster has NO BEARING on the fact that it also works to give tofu its texture, and doesn’t make it any less safe or inedible.

    That’s what cooking is… mixing ingredients to make food for the enjoyment of human beings. Should those ingredients be safe and tested scientifically and regulated by the FDA to make sure the public isn’t exposed to undue hazards? Yes. But does the fact that it is a “chemical additive” mean that it is “unnatural” and that it is automatically nasty and bad and shouldn’t be in our food? Not at all.

    And seriously… next time the Food Babe goes to eat ANYTHING, organic, “free range,” or otherwise… she should realize that it’s all made of chemicals. Every last single component of everything she eats is a chemical compound. Even the water…

  15. Bruceon 03 Mar 2014 at 6:01 am

    Just eat Bacon people.

    Bacon contains everything that is good and nothing that is bad. This is scientifically proven because Bacon.

    (PS loved that comment DRC… TOFU IS BAD!)

  16. Lumen2222on 03 Mar 2014 at 4:34 pm

    I second the perception of elitism in a lot of the food based “woo”. I travel in “foodie” circles and witnessed it many times. For example on its face it does not seem elitist to talk about educating people about nutrition.

    But,

    When it’s an upper-middle class food snob, who is interjecting this kind of comment into a discussion about poverty and obesity… and then they go on to include phrases such as “organic”,”GMO”, and “free range”, as ideas that need to be disseminated via this “education”…

    Yeah, I often find myself thinking that some of the people who need the most “education” about the realities of food are not the poor.

  17. embeeteeon 04 Mar 2014 at 12:51 am

    Not only did she move the goalposts (scientists obviously don’t care about the risk of asthma among factory workers), she moved them right back again in the same breath: (paraphrasing) as someone who suffered a from asthma for many years I know how terrible it is, and it was only when I removed all those chemicals from my diet…

    So now she’s back to it as a dietary food supplement, lumped in with all those others she rid her own diet of in order to cure her asthma

    Sigh.

  18. grabulaon 04 Mar 2014 at 7:07 am

    A coworker of mine is a conspiracy nut who really buys into things like this. Last week I heard him talking about this very topic and so linked him to these articles…didn’t even bother reading them. You win some you lose some I guess.

    He’s the same person who claims ‘you can never be too open minded’…..

  19. Psychbot709on 04 Mar 2014 at 10:25 am

    Until I see the LD/LC 50 for this compound (rats as a study subject would be acceptable to me, not necessary to prove this in humans), I will remain unconvinced. And because I am enjoying my breakfast of azodicarbonamide laden toast and a steaming cup of 2,3,5-TRIMETHYLPHENOL, 2-ETHYLPHENOL, 2-METHOXY-4-ETHYLPHENOL, 2,4-METHYLENEPHENOL, DICAFFEOYL-QUINIC ACID, 4-ETHYLPHENOL, 4-METHOXY-4-VINYLPHENOL, ACETALDEHYDE, CAFFEINE, CAFFEOL, CAFFEOYL-3-QUINIC ACID, CAFFETANNIC ACID, CHLOROGENIC ACID, CITRIC ACID, DATURIC ACID, GUAIACOL, HYPOXANTHINE, ISOCHLOROGENIC ACID, PUTRESCINE, SCOPOLETIN, SPERMIDINE, SPERMINE, SUGARS, TANNIC ACID, TANNIN, THEOBROMINE, THEOPHYLLINE, THIAMIN, TRIGONELLINE, XANTHINE right now, I would appreciate it if someone could look up the LD/LC 50 of azodicarbonamide for me. Beside the point, I am frightened to death that I am drinking a lethal brew of theophylline and spermine!!! I had no idea! What in the heck is spermine? I am more afraid of that than theophylline, that name just sounds… gross. You fellow skeptics go on ahead without me, I am clearly done for.

  20. vik1215on 04 Mar 2014 at 1:25 pm

    You don’t have to be a scientist to know that azodiacarbonamide is not even an ingredient needed to make bread. Whether it is safe to consume at low levels or whether it causes asthma in workers or not, the issue to me is purely to have people be aware of chemicals they are putting into their body and that it is unnecessary.

  21. vik1215on 04 Mar 2014 at 1:35 pm

    Looking at 2 brands of ice cream… one contains cream, milk, sugar, eggs and cocoa. The other contains milk, corn syrup, high fructose corn syrup, juices from concentrate, guar gum, carrageenan, mono and diglycerides, natural flavor (which, we have no idea what this really means) dextrose, polysorbate 80, isomalt, corn starch and modified corn starch….which one makes more sense to eat? It’s not a scientific process, it’s a matter of logic.

  22. Calli Arcaleon 04 Mar 2014 at 2:46 pm

    vik1215 — I’m not clear what your criticism of azodicarbonamide is. It’s not an ingredient you use when making bread, therefore it cannot have value in bread? It doesn’t take much effort to find out why they put it in bread; it makes the flour rise better and be more workable. If they take it out, it will definitely affect the finished product, so naturally if it’s banned, they’ll just replace it with a different chemical that does the same thing. That’s why it’s there; now, can you tell me why it shouldn’t be there?

    And with the ice cream, why is the one with the longer ingredient list less sensible to eat? I had a roommate in college who would definitely have preferred the one with the longer list; she’s deathly allergic to eggs, which is what most of those various ingredients are replacing.

    Eggs are pretty complicated, chemically speaking. Albumin’s just the start of the amazing chemistry they contain. In fact, arguably, the second one you listed is more complete in the ingredient list, since the first one doesn’t break down what chemicals are in the cream, milk, eggs, and cocoa. (Cocoa? That’s actually a pretty vague way of identifying the chocolate, since several commercially-available forms of chocolate could be described that way, with dramatic differences in flavor and composition.)

  23. TheFlyingPigon 04 Mar 2014 at 3:40 pm

    @Steven Novella, those lists of ingredients… I think I found where you got all of them, but none of them are anywhere near definitive or complete, so I question whether it’s right to call them “ingredient lists”. They all seem to be from people searching “Dr. Duke’s Phytochemical and Ethnobotanical Databases” and using some criteria for what to include. But they don’t look anything like ingredient lists… coffee or apples without water?, apples without cellulose? Your point stands, of course, but the phrasing of it is misleading and could leave you open to criticism. It was the first thing I thought of with those lists… if I had chemophobic leanings, I’d dismiss them as bs.

    Better to present it with something like “Here’s a list of chemicals found in food products you might have in your home right now!”… in my nitpicky opinion anyway.

  24. TheFlyingPigon 04 Mar 2014 at 3:50 pm

    Wow, just read Wikipedia’s article on chemophobia. It is surprising good, though maybe a bit short. The skeptics did a good job with that one.

  25. Psychbot709on 04 Mar 2014 at 3:51 pm

    I just found out that my morning coffee also contained over 99% dihydrogen monoxide (hat tip to Skeptico). I am still alive, my vital signs are stable. I have intestinal cramps and moderate levels of anxiety. I seem hypervigilant, but my colleagues have not caught on to this yet. I think they may be looking at me funny. Or maybe its the other way around. Clearly this poison is having an effect on me. Why doesn’t the government control this? I have had enough of this ” Don’t just do something, stand there” approach from the FDA and their nefarious Colombian coffee cartel buddies. We must have a call to action from Congress. I will link Chuck Grassly to this blog. Fortunately, the theophylline from the coffee seems to be offsetting some of the more deleterious asthmatic effects of the azodicarbonamide. What is the LD 50 of dihydrogen monoxide, anyway? Route of administration- mostly oral. Some intranasal, when I read about the spermine. Oh goodness! I must call Oprah, no- Dr. Oz.

    (exit stage left, hysteria update complete)

  26. Lumen2222on 04 Mar 2014 at 4:01 pm

    If they take it out, it will definitely affect the finished product, so naturally if it’s banned, they’ll just replace it with a different chemical that does the same thing.

    And to add to this I’ll point out that no one is going to ban it. There is no evidence that it’s unsafe. The only reason that Subway responded to the FoodBabe’s petition is because they are market sensitive and it’s easier to change the process than it is to fight the current rash of chemical-phobia.

    I mean on some level I don’t disagree that it’s good to understand what’s in your food. And for a lot of people buying fresh foods and cooking at home is a great way to keep a handle on what and exactly how much you are eating. But that’s more about practicality, ease, and individual choice than anything else. Once you go purchased something pre-packaged from the store the circumstances have changed greatly and it can be safer and less wasteful to use preservatives and other additives to make sure that the products don’t go bad within seconds of hitting the shelves.

    But knowing what’s in your food should not translate to being frightened by a bunch of scary sounding latin names… it’s an opportunity to educate yourself. 90% of what’s in my cupboard is “unnecessary”. That box of Sodium Bicarbonate could pretty easily be labeled an “unnecessary additive” by someone like the FoodBabe. But if you want it you’re going to have to pry my homemade chocolate chip cookies from my cold dead hands. (Or at least show me some REALLY solid evidence for why it’s bad for me. And even then I might decide to ignore you and live in blissful ignorance.)

  27. eabaruthon 04 Mar 2014 at 5:23 pm

    Not sure why this guy is defending a carcinogen proven to cause cancer in mammals? Bottom line it’s not a food & definitely doesn’t belong in bread along with the rest of the filler bage they use. The article is very poorly written, he includes hardly any useful information about what Azobicarbonamide really is, with misleading information, leading the reader to believe Azobicarbonamide is similar and no less harmful than soy by-products. The majority of what he wrote is quite a bit off topic discussing how hard to pronounce chemical names aren’t all dangerous.. True & an okay point if he wasn’t using it to make this crap sound safe. “Azodicarbonamide is manufactured by the reaction of dihydrazine sulfate (extremely toxic) and urea (synthetically created from ammonia & carbon dioxide) under high temperature and pressure. The product of this reaction is then oxidized using sodium chlorate (extremely toxic) and centrifuged to yield a slurry containing azodicarbonamide.” http://www.inchem.org. Apparently they “clean” the final product. Last time I checked yoga mats do not easily break down & decompose. If what you eat doesn’t biodegrade easily in your system, well.. it builds up, although the FDA won’t admit it $$, build ups of chemicals (Yellow #5 for example) that don’t easily break down will not only cause unknown/tested chemical reactions in our systems, but build up & encourage cancerous growth. Like-minded “$cientists” in the FDA will tell you a whole list of chemicals they consider “safe” to consume & add to food products. While European scientists & other scholars around the world who aren’t owned by the chemical companies, can see the clear dangers through scientific studies, thus banning dangerous chemicals like this. I bet this author regularly eats at subway & just refuses to believe the dangers & risks of consuming this chemical, at any rate he’s really good at writing misinformation. here’s my favorite quote:”Everything we eat is made of chemicals (many with long and difficult to pronounce names). Natural vs unnatural does not matter at all.” Okay what is he saying?? it doesn’t matter if you eat unnatural chemicals, ha ha ha!? name some then. This guys an amateur who doesn’t know what he’s actually talking about & should go back to school, seriously!

  28. DietRichColaon 04 Mar 2014 at 5:24 pm

    @vik1215

    Everything you just said is exactly the problem, and shows a complete misunderstanding of the issue at hand, and of cooking in general. You simultaneously assume that putting azodicarbonamide or other “chemicals” in your body is “unnecessary” therefore they shouldn’t be used, and you say that eating ice cream with a shorter list of ingredients is “logically” the better choice. There isn’t an ounce of logic in anything you have said.

    What exactly makes a something “necessary” to you? Did you even look at why they put those ingredients in there? Contrary to what you or Food Babe seem to be promoting, most companies do not simply put random ingredients in their food (at cost and expense) for no reason whatsoever… they usually have a purpose.

    Did you know that most food companies employ teams of food / taste scientists? Cooking actually IS chemistry… it’s why most chemists I know, myself included, are actually quite good in the kitchen. But there is an actual field referred to as food science. And many of these ingredients you see added to the food are in there for very specific reasons that have been tested over and over again in a kitchen laboratory. They might be there to give the food a certain texture, or a certain flavor, or to make it look nicer. And if you think these things aren’t important, then you obviously don’t cook very often.

    If this isn’t enough for you, why not look at the list of ingredients you actually offered:

    corn syrup / high fructose corn syrup: This is just a cheap sugar. Would it be nice if they used cane sugar… maybe. But I have bottles of both of these in my own baking cabinet.

    guar gum: In ice cream, this helps thicken it, and also helps the texture of the ice cream stay homogenous. Having lumpy home-made ice cream is fine, but texture of food is important, so something that makes it homogeneous if you’re mass producing it is good.

    carrageenan: A gelatin, again to add some viscosity to the ice cream. And guess what? It’s normally harvested from moss or seaweed. Call it carrageenan and it’s a “chemical” I’m unnecessarily adding to my food… but if had said I added a “natural” seaweed gelatin to make my ice cream thicker… Food Babe would probably applaud me.

    Polysorbate 80: Oh… my… god… this one has a NUMBER in it’s freaking name. Must be AWFUL. Why is it even IN there?!!! Well, it’s an emulsifier — that is, something that allows two normally immiscible liquids (means they don’t mix) to mix with each other. Think oil-and-water, and something that would allow them to mix. In ice cream, it makes it smoother, easier to handle, and allows it to resist melting and hold its shape, even as it does melt. Now I’ll give you this, it is a synthesized additive. But synthesized from what? Well, as far as I can tell, it is synthesized from oleic acid (the common fatty acid in olive oil) and sorbitan (also derived from plant and animal sources). Yes, I know that doesn’t really satisfy the “unnatural” ingredients crowd, but I had to try. But in terms of why it is in there… well, if I was making ice cream and could add a small amount of something to my ice cream and it would make it smoother, not melt as fast, and hold its shape better… I totally would. It is an ingredient that adds desired properties to my food. Just because I can’t extract it from a plant or animal all by itself (though I could create it from components that are), doesn’t make it some horrible evil chemical.

    Mono/Diglycerides: Fatty acids attached to glycerol. You’ve heard of triglycerides (what you traditionally think of as fat)? Like that, only you’ve broken off some of the fatty acids attached to the glycerol. This happens in our body during the process of digestion. Because they AREN’T triglycerides, our body doesn’t treat them as fats (I’m not a biologist though, so hopefully I’m not characterizing this wrong). However, their structure allows them to act as emulsifiers, because they can help the fatty things in the ice cream (like the milk or cream) mix with watery things… giving the ice cream smoother texture. Probably lets the bump up the cream content while maintaining texture, which isn’t necessarily healthy for us, but makes that ice cream delicious!

    Isomalt: Sugar substitue. Sure, I prefer more cane sugar, but they like making things taste sweeter without making us fatter or we complain… I get it.

    Dextrose: More sugar!

    Corn starch: Thickening agent… derived from corn… I got a big tub of it I cook with all the time.

    As you can see… none of these ingredients are magical or scary. They are there for a purpose. Maybe YOU don’t have access to guar gum in your spice cabinet, but if you did, and you added it to your favorite cake and it made its consistency just a little bit firmer in a way that you liked, I guarantee you would have no problem adding it to your recipes from there on out. Maybe the recipes you know don’t need all these “fancy” extra ingredients. But I have no problem going off recipe and adding a pinch of cayenne pepper to my pumpkin pie mix because it gives it that little extra hint of a “kick” in the flavor. That’s what makes the difference between a good recipe, and a great recipe. That’s how ingredients work! That’s how cooking works. That’s how making recipes works! You or I may not have access to all the same ingredients as these commercial companies, but they test out dozens, hundreds, even thousands of recipes making little tweaks to find the optimal taste, flavor, look, feel, and texture so that it is exactly what they want and what works well.

    And yes, since these are big companies, they add things that “test well” with focus groups. So does your homemade ice cream need to be so perfectly smooth and creamy and the same consistency… or does it need to hold it’s shape after sitting out for 5 minutes in a bowl? Maybe not. So maybe you wouldn’t need to add that carageenan to your ice cream for that little tiny extra bit of firmness… But if they made two batches and presented them to test groups, and that extra bit of firmness made people like it more… they’re going to keep it in the recipe! And if you could do that at home too, you would!!! That’s how it works!

    Now, I will give you, some of the other ingredients are only there because we, as a society, expect to be able to get our favorite box of what-have-yous at the local convenience store regardless of whether we’re in Boston, Denver, or Seattle without any degradation in quality… so some ingredients are put in there because they also have preservative qualities or they help the product maintain a specific texture or quality despite having been shipped 2,000 miles across the country to get to it’s destination. These would not be “necessary” were we able to get them made on demand on location wherever we are at… but that simply isn’t the case. And, it doesn’t make these additives any less safe or something we “shouldn’t be putting in our bodies”.

  29. vik1215on 04 Mar 2014 at 6:44 pm

    Calli Arcale-Bread needs 4 ingredients…water, flour and salt and yeast…nothing else has value in bread, unless you want to add flax seed, chia or some other whole food.

  30. vik1215on 04 Mar 2014 at 6:47 pm

    I understand that water is a chemical compound, but I think you understand the difference between a cheimcal compound that the body needs to survive vs. azodiacarbonamide.

  31. vik1215on 04 Mar 2014 at 6:48 pm

    You are fighting so hard for your point of view and foodbabe should be able to fight for hers as well.

  32. vik1215on 04 Mar 2014 at 6:50 pm

    How do you explain the fact that azod. is banned overseas and is not part of the chemical makeup in bread at Subway or in grocery stores in Europe?

  33. vik1215on 04 Mar 2014 at 6:54 pm

    DietRichCola-Please tell me what purpose caramel color serves in coke..other than to color the soda? Also, are you able to tell me what ‘natural flavors’ are and why they are listed as an ingredient on practically everything in the supermarket? I prefer not to eat or drink carmine or castoreum.

  34. vik1215on 04 Mar 2014 at 6:57 pm

    I don’t need to add dye to my food to make it taste better or look better. I just want to eat raw food that comes from the earth without being genetically modified or processed. I don’t need to slice my organic apple and say “I would rather the flesh of this be red, so I will add some dye to make it look more appealing”.

  35. vik1215on 04 Mar 2014 at 6:59 pm

    Thank you for your wikipedia definitions of the ingredients…I already knew what they did though…

  36. vik1215on 04 Mar 2014 at 7:06 pm

    Please do not tell me what I would do in my own kitchen, because i would not add carrageenan or guar gum to make my food look pretty to my guests…I only care about serving the best. So, if you are all fine with serving added junk to the people you love than more power to you.

  37. tmac57on 04 Mar 2014 at 8:11 pm

    Diet Rich Cola- I am totally going to add some cayenne pepper next time to my pumpkin pie! That sounds brilliant ! Thanks :)

  38. DietRichColaon 04 Mar 2014 at 8:14 pm

    Well, everyone here can tell I’m obviously new to blog commenting, because at this point nothing I say will do much more than feed the troll, but I’m gonna do it anyway. I’ll learn eventually.

    @vik1215, The point is, none of the things you listed are scary, dangerous or bad for us. If you already knew what all the ingredients did and their purpose in the food, why did you take issue with them? Every one of those ingredients had a specific purpose for affecting the taste, texture, or longevity of the food. Most are even what Food Babe would consider “natural”. Companies list the common or chemical name for them in the ingredient list, but that’s all they are… ingredients. You add them to your recipes because they do something you want to the food.

    Can you make bread water, flour, salt, and yeast? Sure. But if you want the bread to have other properties, such as fluffing up a certain way, it needs more. You want it to have a flavor, you add spices or herbs. Just because you CAN make something from four ingredients, doesn’t mean that is the only way to make it… and more importantly doesn’t make it the way it “should be made” by everyone, and that is the bar by which companies should design recipes.

    It isn’t used in all breads, because it’s properties aren’t needed in all breads. From my understanding, it was used at Subway because it was a preservative and helped the bread rise faster. Sadly, Subway does make their dough at a central factory – hence why they might like the preservative qualities – but they do cook it on site, so faster rising also seems desirable. Subway wanted these qualities, so they used it as an ingredient. Much as I would use xantham gum in gluten-free cookies or other gluten-free recipes to try to replicate the structure and texture gluten gives to baked goods (see the recent America’s Test Kitchen article for gluten-free chocolate chip cookies, yum!). I would NOT use xantham gum in my normal cookies because they have the gluten, they don’t have to have it. And if I wanted my cookies to be done in 5 min instead of 7… I’d consider azodiacarbamide. It’s just an ingredient to serve a function in my cooking.

    As far as the factory workers… It is banned as a blowing agent in other countries. Because inhaling the dust is bad for you lungs and can cause asthma. As is inhaling a lot of things. End of story. Why is a “yoga mat” foam chemical, or a blowing agent in our food? Because the common substances we use have multiple uses. My baking soda works great for making fake volcanoes, cleaning up spilled hydrochloric acid spilled on my lab room floor, AND for baking cookies. And you know what? Inhaling baking soda isn’t good for me either (read the MSDS / SDS)… but that doesn’t affect my ability to eat it.

    Vik1215, I DO apologize that, upon re-reading my post, it does seem I directed a little of my comments AT you personally instead of just your ideas. You, as a person, can choose to cook however you want. You want bread made of 4 ingredients, then do it. That is not the issue.

    But that isn’t what happened here. Food Babe took an ingredient… an ingredient used because it is a preservative, and because it allows the bread to rise faster… and went on a campaign to have it removed because it had a scary name she couldn’t pronounce, and because it is banned as a blowing agent in some countries. She dictated an entire company’s ability to use an ingredient based on fear-mongering, unscientific reasons that have no basis in reality. And THAT is the issue.

    Food Babe can say her “side”. The problem is, when she does, and people point out how fallacious every one of her arguments is, and the science doesn’t ‘t support her… she refuses to change her mind. And SHE is somehow the the one dictating food policy. That is the problem.

  39. DietRichColaon 04 Mar 2014 at 8:35 pm

    @Tmac57, just a “dash.” Too much is not pleasant at all.

  40. grabulaon 04 Mar 2014 at 10:00 pm

    vik1215, out of curiosity, why are you here and why did you bother to post? You’re not interested in a rational discourse – being told actual science is apparently telling you what you can and can’t do in the kitchen. Or how about the naturalistic fallacies you’re firing all over the place? You are obviously not interested in learning anything, did you not think that coming here and claiming that kind of crazyness wouldn’t be taken apart wholesale and in detail? You can’t even appear to understand that most of the “added junk” as you call it serves a purpose, and is easily processed by the body with no ill effects.

  41. vik1215on 04 Mar 2014 at 10:44 pm

    grabula- I came here to try and figure out the thought process of people who do not seem to understand the danger of an excess of harmful chemicals which a human body was never meant to digest or absorb.

  42. vik1215on 04 Mar 2014 at 10:44 pm

    Not everyone who posts here HAS to agree with the stated opinion do they?

  43. vik1215on 04 Mar 2014 at 10:46 pm

    The only thing I am learning here is that people do not understand the harmful effects these toxins have on the body.

  44. vik1215on 04 Mar 2014 at 10:49 pm

    These ingredients may serve a purpose, however, radiation serves a purpose as well..to kill cancer cells…that doesn’t mean radiation is good for the body. Whatever ‘purpose’ some ingredients may serve..they are still IMO unnecessary.

  45. vik1215on 04 Mar 2014 at 10:51 pm

    But, why did Subway only want it in breads in the U.S.? They obviously have a different recipe for bread overseas that people don’t seem to be complaining isn’t ‘fluffy’ or hasn’t ‘risen’ enough…

  46. grabulaon 04 Mar 2014 at 10:53 pm

    Not at all, however, why bother having a discussion at all if you aren’t willing to have open minded and honest discourse? If you don’t come armed with the scienctific understanding of claims say, like “…the danger of an excess of harmful chemicals which a human body was never meant to digest or absorb.” This statement is off the mark on several levels and the fact that you make it shows you don’t really understand the vary basics of the issue.

    As another example, I noticed you completely dodged the mention of egg allergy as a solid explanation for why ice cream may contain different contents.

    The ultimate problem with this world view is that a general fear of the unknown – in this case the chemicals and biology involved, combined with the paranoia to assume anyone who feels to thinks differently from your point of view is behind the scam, leads to an inability for you to absorb any real evidence. This in turn means you make baseless comments about ‘logic’ or ‘reality’ then go immediately on the defensive when you’re assaulted with the error in your approach. You flail against the common thread of discussion and assume we’re all schills for the ‘man’ and absolutely nothing is accomplished. From a rational perspective individuals like you who come with your approach should often be embarrassed at how easily and quickly your personal beliefs are dispatched in locations like this but that passes completely over your head and instead of learning anything at all, you most likely walk away frustrated and angry and I dare say empty.

  47. vik1215on 04 Mar 2014 at 10:54 pm

    Honestly, I am not trying to be argumentative. I like to have conversation on issues that I care about.

  48. vik1215on 04 Mar 2014 at 10:58 pm

    I am not trying to dodge anything, I am trying to respond to everything and have forgotten some items..about the ice cream…I slice bananas, freeze them, put them in a blender with cold water and it makes delicious simple, healthy ice cream. But, if someone is allergic to bananas…that won’t help them either. If you are allergic to shellfish..you avoid it. If you have an allergy to peanuts..you avoid them. Sometimes people with allergies have to go without.

  49. vik1215on 04 Mar 2014 at 11:00 pm

    I feel like this quote “…paranoia to assume anyone who feels to thinks differently from your point of view is behind the scam, leads to an inability for you to absorb any real evidence.” applies to you also. You cannot say I am not tolerant of your point of view when you are not tolerant of mine.

  50. vik1215on 04 Mar 2014 at 11:03 pm

    I completely disagree with your entire last paragraph. I am not flailing, am not embarrassed, frustrated, angry or empty…I have not even been proven wrong on any of my points. No one has answered my question on ‘natural flavors’.

  51. DietRichColaon 04 Mar 2014 at 11:10 pm

    @Vic1215

    “Please tell me what purpose caramel color serves in coke..other than to color the soda?”

    Two things on this one. Yes, I can tell you what purpose it serves… though I guess it isn’t immediately detached from giving it color. It serves to make us buy it. Because this little experiment…

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Crystal_Pepsi

    was a disaster. Seriously, the theory is that people associated the caramel color of common cola brands to the taste of cola, and when you took that color away, that association went away and they thought it tasted “funny.” This association of color with taste has been studied scientifically numerous times. It’s why our strawberry foods are dyed “red”, even though the actual strawberry flavor has no color and “strawberry flavored things” could just as easily be made green, purple, yellow OR be left colorless (as you’d seem to prefer). But people actually associate the “color” with the “flavor,” and the fact is, people wouldn’t eat it. Or even better, if you made it green, they would tell you it tasted like an “apple” even though it was strawberry. Again, this is very established food science (and marketing science too). So in part, they dye it caramel colored because if they DON’T, we won’t buy it.

    But secondly, even if it is only for the color… why does that make it unnecessary? What is your argument there? Color is a VERY important part of our eating / drinking experience. I routinely add turmeric to my mashed potatoes (a trick my chef friend taught me). Why? Does it enhance the flavor? Nope. I don’t really add enough of it to affect the flavor. But I tell you what, it gives the potatoes a BEAUTIFUL yellow hue… sprinkle in a little parsley, and the colors just make them pop! It makes them present in a way that normal mashed potatoes just do not. So… even if that caramel color is JUST for color and not taste… why is that a bad thing?

  52. DietRichColaon 04 Mar 2014 at 11:12 pm

    “I prefer not to eat or drink carmine or castoreum.”

    Your preference is duly noted. I used to not like to eat onions. Now I cook with them all the time. But I still hate Brussels sprouts. And I always will (well, maybe). No one is going to make you eat it if you don’t want to… it’s okay.

    However, your preference aside… what is wrong with those ingredients? Those too are “natural”. One is made from ground up insect, one is made from beaver secretions. You could argue that that is kinda “gross”… but so what? That’s like saying eating beef tongue is gross… or using pig intestines to make sausage is gross. The idea of the ingredient may not always be pleasant to our Western-trained minds (which we can worry about in our first-world environment since food is widely available), but that doesn’t make it any less edible or somehow harmful to us if it is added to the food. Even Food Babe talks about how glad she is when people use “the whole animal”. In other countries people eat insects all the time (my uncle tells me grasshoppers are a “breakfast food” in Thailand). It may be “gross” to you, and you certainly don’t HAVE to eat it if you don’t want to… but that has no scientific bearing of whether that particular ingredient deserves to be in our food or not.

    You see vik1215… you misunderstand why I got upset at your comment. I’m not trying to tell you that you should be forced to eat things you don’t like… or that if you have a legitimate reason for not wanting something in your food, that you shouldn’t be able to voice it.

    What got me upset, is that you assumed an ice cream that has 5 ingredients, was somehow better than one that had 14 ingredients, and assumed it was “logical” which one was the right choice.

    But your argument wasn’t logical. It wasn’t logical at all. In fact, there wasn’t even really an argument. You even claimed to know what every single one of those ingredients did in the “bad” ice cream, but offered no reason why any one of those particular ingredients were bad. I listed the reason every single one of those ingredients was likely added to the ice cream… and you still didn’t actually point out which ones should have been left out or why.

    You see, I may be new to this whole “skepticism” thing… but the reason I have been drawn to it is that I want to have conversations with people, even debates with people, that are grounded in critical thinking. I am a science educator, and I DESPERATELY want to see people use their critical thinking skills to solve problems, make valid arguments, and test their own ideas and hypothesis. I believe YOU, vik1215, are JUST AS CAPABLE of critical thinking as every other single person on this website. You have the capability… but you need to learn to use it.

    “Critical thinking” means sitting down, thinking through your own arguments, and testing them. The “critical” part means being critical of yourself… realizing that just because you THINK it’s true, doesn’t mean that it is, and that you have to test it versus other knowledge and facts that you have to assess its truth.

    Food Babe… she isn’t using her critical thinking skills. She’s being emotional, irrational, hearing a bunch of random facts and just running with them without sitting down to think through the implications of what she has learned. If she had, she would have had thoughts like this:

    “oh my goodness, this chemical in Subway bread is banned as a blowing agent because it causes asthma!”

    “hmm, now that I look at it, maybe that’s because they are in an environment where if it is a blowing agent, and in that environment they can breath it into their lungs”

    “but what if it’s still bad to ingest and can still cause asthma when eaten?!”

    “nope, I guess it looks like if I read the safety material, you can’t get the asthma symptoms from eating it”

    “but why is it in my bread?!!”

    “oh, because it’s used to make the Subway bread rise faster with the flour, and helps preserve it on the way from the plant where they make the dough”

    After all of that line of reasoning… she still could have concluded for herself, “Well Subway is dumb and I don’t want to eat their stinking sandwiches anyway!”. But you know what? I would have had a lot more respect for her. And she wouldn’t have gotten an entire chemical banned based on fallacious logic and ideas that played on the emotions of a reactionary public and gave them misinformation about the hazards they were exposed to that caused THEM to ignore their critical thinking skills too.

    That’s just it vik1215, if you have a real, science-based, logic-based reason for not wanting some of these ingredients in your food, I want to talk to you about it. I want to debate you about it, and then I think we’ll both come away happy. If you said “I don’t want carmine in my food, because it has shown to have X effect, and this other red dye works just as well and has shown to be safer”… I would go “huh, yeah, I should look into that with you.” But I feel like your only aversion to carmine is this idea that it’s not “natural” to dye or food, that ground up insect is “gross”, or that carmine is just some “chemical additive” that is unnecessary. But those arguments just aren’t based on fact, and certainly wouldn’t be the basis for having it removed from food.

    But the problem is, I feel it is people like Food Babe and others who have led you to abandon your critical thinking and reasoning skills… filled your head with ideas about “natural” and “organic” things that aren’t true, and who get you freaked out about all these “chemicals” companies are adding into your food all by manipulating your emotions… without giving you any real actual fact-based basis for that fear. And people like that make me angry.

  53. grabulaon 04 Mar 2014 at 11:26 pm

    Vik1215 – one of the wonders of modern science is that people don’t necessarily have to go without. I’m lactose intolerant, I have tons of tasty choices and can still get my favorite drink – milk, without tripping the usual reactions. It’s extremely self centered to think the only way to do things necessarily leaves some people out, don’t you think?

    Paranoia – I don’t instinctively fear things like chemicals, or governments, or even corporations to a certain extant. A corporations bottom line is to make money. This sometimes leads to some pretty despicable acts, it also leads to a lot more solid science in order to make products more palatable and more interesting. I don’t automatically close avenues of interest due to it’s source, I rationally approach something I might be curious about and I look for reasonable resources in which to understand those things. Sources like the FoodBabe are not reasonable sources. Her outlook is irrational and this latest push is sheer fear mongering. I approve of people questioning the world around them, but they must question responsibly.

    “The only thing I am learning here is that people do not understand the harmful effects these toxins have on the body”

    that’s the ultimate problem. You don’t see that the people here really do understand the effects on the body INCLUDING and most importantly, the science behind it. People like you will be broadsided with data point after data point on these things but you will continue to fail to see that there’s a more reasonable stance than assuming the position of the naturalistic fallacy:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Naturalistic_fallacy

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Appeal_to_nature

    Read it, try in all sincerity to understand it.

    Ultimately, the point of the article is that FoodBabe is trying to make choices for the population based on fallacious assumptions. She’s not fighting for anything but her absolute view on the world. I’m ok with an inert substance making my bread a little fluffier. She isn’t interested in educating anyone, she’s just interested in trying to force the world to see things through her rose colored glasses.

  54. DietRichColaon 04 Mar 2014 at 11:28 pm

    @vik1215

    “The only thing I am learning here is that people do not understand the harmful effects these toxins have on the body.”

    This statement, is the crux of our problem. You are coming here with the assumption that there is some sort of toxic effect from these thing. Where is the proof?!! How have you “come to understand” this in a way that is not subjective? That is not just “your experience” or because someone else told you so? That is the nature of this site. Our minds, we as people, are VERY easy to fool, and we fall into many logical fallacies and mental traps. We have to find ways to sort out the FACTS of a matter, that are not simply based on our own subjective interpretation or experience.

    Azodicarbonamide is NOT toxic simply because it can give people who inhale particles into their lungs asthma. To be toxic by eating, there would have to be a study showing that rats who *ingested* it on the levels it is in the Subway bread makes them have adverse health effects or die.

    Carmine is not toxic simply because it is a red dye that people use to make the food look more red! The fact that that food is not already “naturally that red” doesn’t mean that adding the dye makes it toxic to us or we are adding toxins to our food! The carmine itself would have to have been shown to have harmful toxicological effects on our bodies as carried out by studies looking at its ingestion.

    In order to state that these “toxins” have harmful effects on the body (or that they are even “toxins” in the first place) you have to have SCIENTIFIC EVIDENCE that shows that they do! Not just someone telling you that they do!

    That’s what science and critical thinking is for. Either azodicarbonamide is toxic or it isn’t. This is not subjective. The process of science and critical thinking is what allows us BOTH to come to the same objective conclusion that is not based on “my opinion” or “your opinion”. So a rational, logic based discussion should go like this:

    You say azodicarbonamide is a “toxin” and bad for me. I say, “oh really, can you show me the scientific study that says so?” We both go and look it up and go “huh, well, this stuff isn’t good if we inhale it, but in the levels it is in Subway’s bread, it hasn’t been shown to have any adverse effects at all”. The best conclusion we can make then is that, at least with current data, azodicarbonamide is not something we need to be afraid of or that we need to avoid. It is simply and literally a preservative and bread rising ingredient.

    The fact that you are convinced it is a “toxin” because it isn’t “natural” or because Food Babe says so, or your mother says so, or your naturopath says so, or God says so, or whatever other reason you think… none of that matters. We need a basis that doesn’t care what either you or I think that is objective… and that is with experiments that are well-done and documented using rigorous scientific method. And when we look at those… they say it is harmless as used in the Subway bread.

  55. vik1215on 04 Mar 2014 at 11:35 pm

    I’m all for color..but there are ‘ggod’ ways to add and ‘bad’ ways. Tumeric comes from a plant that grows..it is not an engineered color from a lab.

  56. vik1215on 04 Mar 2014 at 11:36 pm

    Of course it comes down to money…that is why I speak with my dollar also..

  57. vik1215on 04 Mar 2014 at 11:41 pm

    People have the option and the right to eat whatever they choose, I’m not trying to tell anyone to eat differently. I am just trying to understand why and how some people cannot see that soda, (or insert other unhealthy food or drink) whether clear or colored is not good for the body.

  58. vik1215on 04 Mar 2014 at 11:45 pm

    About the word ‘natural’ I do not care for that word when it comes to food labels. Yes, there are natural things that are gross..so if it is going to be in my food..I should have the option to choose not to eat it by proper labeling, not hidden under the blanket term ‘natural flavors’.

  59. vik1215on 04 Mar 2014 at 11:47 pm

    You are absolutely right! Westerners are not accustomed to food that is popular in other countries! So, while strolling through the meat section I can pass over the package clearly labeled ‘beef tongue’.

  60. vik1215on 04 Mar 2014 at 11:51 pm

    I do believe that the ice cream with 5 ingredients is better than the other and I still cannot see how someone could disagree. Just because you make make something a thousand times sweeter, or a little thicker does not mean it makes the ice cream better.

  61. DietRichColaon 05 Mar 2014 at 12:03 am

    @vik1215

    Oh but you’re incorrect. By disagreeing with your argument, I am NOT de-facto saying that the ice cream with 14 ingredients is better than the one with 5. I have not tasted both side by side. What I’m saying is, your argument that the one with 5 is LOGICALLY better than the one with 14 is a fallacious argument.

    It is VERY possible the 5 ingredient one tastes better. What if those cows just have some kick-ass tasting milk/cream that takes the lot on its own? But it will fall onto the taste of both brands of ice cream to decide that.

    What I’m saying is those “extra ingredients” do not determine anything good or bad just by virtue of being there (though if the 14 ingredient one DOES end up tasting better, it MIGHT be because it is creamier, thicker, etc… which would likely be the result of one of those ingredients).

    My concern is that you are assuming the 5 one is better, simply because those extra ingredients are “unnatural” and harmful just by virtue of being there. But if your argument is simply “the one with 5 ingredients tastes better because I’ve tried both of them and it is SO much tastier”… then I won’t automatically disagree with you, but I WILL demand a taste test because… hey… it’s ice cream. Win-win.

  62. grabulaon 05 Mar 2014 at 12:10 am

    “I do believe that the ice cream with 5 ingredients is better than the other and I still cannot see how someone could disagree. Just because you make make something a thousand times sweeter, or a little thicker does not mean it makes the ice cream better.”

    This is personal opinion, which you are entitled to. You can certainly choose any food you want to eat, and I’m not, nor is any rational person, against proper labeling. The problem becomes when a chemical…how about azodicarbonamide off the top of my head, appears in those ingredients and someone irrationally reacts to it, puts together a petition and forces large companies to pull those checmicals, all based on irrational and unscientific beliefs. FoodBabe doesn’t HAVE to eat at Subway. If she wanted to rationally examine the effects of these chemicals and motivations for them existing in foods I’d be all for it. That’s not what she’s choosing to do.

    ” I am just trying to understand why and how some people cannot see that soda, (or insert other unhealthy food or drink) whether clear or colored is not good for the body.”

    Again, opinion. Where are you getting your information? What sort of research are you doing in order to shore up these beliefs in a rational manner?

    “About the word ‘natural’ I do not care for that word when it comes to food labels…”

    “I don’t need to add dye to my food to make it taste better or look better. I just want to eat raw food that comes from the earth without being genetically modified or processed. I don’t need to slice my organic apple and say “I would rather the flesh of this be red, so I will add some dye to make it look more appealing”.

    I think you’re being disingenuous. You can nitpick over the words you prefer to use however I’m willing to bet you throw the concept of natural around all the time. It pervades your argument on this topic – no dyes, no “unnatural chemicals” or “toxins”, “GMO’s” or “processed”. At least own up to it.

  63. DietRichColaon 05 Mar 2014 at 12:14 am

    @vik1215

    This is a serious question. I am not trying to berate you or belittle you or just be argumentative. But I want you to keep in mind what I said about critical thinking. And if you can get this point, we’ve made progress.

    You said earlier:

    “I’m all for color..but there are ‘ggod’ ways to add and ‘bad’ ways. Tumeric comes from a plant that grows..it is not an engineered color from a lab.”

    My question is, what about the fact that it is an “engineered color from a lab” makes it so bad? What would make this inferior or worse for me than a “natural” one or one that grows?

    Now, you can list to me all the reasons you think it is bad… you can tell me all of your reasoning as to why. But just relying on “how can you not see how that would be bad?” is not enough. And I’ll tell you right up front… I am not going to be swayed by arguments of “natural” vs. “unnatural” or any of that. I want a fact-based reason why, this lab produced color, would somehow be unfit for me to ingest.

    I have some of my own arguments to share with you as well, but I will let you respond first.

  64. vik1215on 05 Mar 2014 at 12:36 am

    Are you kidding me? Again, I will say that you do not need to be a scientist or a ‘critical thinker’ to see the obvious! This isn’t rocket science…do you believe that GMO’s are good for you? Do you believe that research that shows chemicals cause cancer in mice? Or so you refute it? Caramel color has been proven to cause cancer in mice.

  65. vik1215on 05 Mar 2014 at 12:49 am

    Ok, let’s look at it this way..we know why spinach and bananas and oranges and avocado are good for us…why is azodiacarbonamide good for us? Can you give me a ‘pro’ for why we SHOULD consume it? What GOOD does it do for our body? What vitamins does it contain? What nutrients?

  66. vik1215on 05 Mar 2014 at 12:59 am

    grabula-I guess it’s just for lack of a better word..instead of natural..I would like to use ‘raw’ or ‘whole’…depending on the food…if we are talking about chicken, I wouldn’t say ‘all natural chicken’. I would say ‘grass fed, no hormone/antibiotic, free range chicken’. If we’re talking about a fruit, I would say raw. If we’re talking about grains, I would say whole or sprouted.

  67. DietRichColaon 05 Mar 2014 at 1:00 am

    @vik1215

    I really truly want to have a meaningful conversation with you, but you shut it down at every turn.

    You are either a troll simply trying to say what you think will goad me (since you said exactly what I told you wouldn’t work as a convincing argument)… or you truly are just uninterested in actually engaging in a meaningful conversation.

    The very nature of critical thinking is that you can find that you believe to be so “obviously true” are actually patently and undeniably false. That’s why you need real facts to back them up. Even if you DO think it is just “obvious”, it should mean you have a whole plethora of facts and reasons at your fingertips that show it to be so!

    The whole reason for science and critical thinking is that opposing groups can think something is so “obviously” true, when they clearly can’t BOTH be true, so we need some objective way to determine the truth (or get close to it). Young Earth creationists believe the world is so “obviously” 10,000 years old and created by God, and evolutionists believe the world is “obviously” billions of years old. But only one of them have fact-based arguments to back it up, and that is the difference.

    But if your response to my question is simply to throw up your hands and say “how can you not see?!!” but that’s the best you can do… you aren’t engaging in an open-minded debate or argument at all. If you truly believe what you are saying, without any modicum of objective truth, then you have been mindlessly duped by or bought into so many fallacies it is unfortunate.

    You can keep thinking we are poor souls who just can’t see the light… and that we are going to tragically continue to eat “toxins” to our deaths… but you can’t expect people to be swayed by your arguments if your only argument is “why can’t you people see?!!”

  68. vik1215on 05 Mar 2014 at 1:00 am

    If we’re talking about azodiacarbonamide…I don’t know what to call it other than a chemical.

  69. vik1215on 05 Mar 2014 at 1:03 am

    How about instead of your constant talk about critical thinking and me being a troll..how about you respond to my scientific fact of known carcinogens, like caramel coloring, in mice?

  70. vik1215on 05 Mar 2014 at 1:03 am

    Also, please tell me the benefits of azodiacarbonamide for the body.

  71. vik1215on 05 Mar 2014 at 1:05 am

    I am trying to have a CONVERSATION!!!! Not the textbook definition of an argument!!!

  72. vik1215on 05 Mar 2014 at 1:17 am

    You seem to really be upset. Look, you are telling me that I have no scientific data to back up the statement that az. is a toxin and should not be in our bread. What scientific data or studies do YOU have that it is NOT a toxin? That’s right..none. You really cannot say it is a proven fact that it causes absolutely, without a doubt, NO heath concerns, because there is no proper data for this either. So, please do not tell me about ‘logical fallacies’ when you are committing several yourself.

  73. grabulaon 05 Mar 2014 at 1:19 am

    @Vik1215

    “Are you kidding me? Again, I will say that you do not need to be a scientist or a ‘critical thinker’ to see the obvious!”

    You shouldn’t make statements like this without backing it up with hard science. A Critical Thinker looks at the evidence presented to him through the scientific method and makes decisions based on that. There’s nothing obvious about any of this and making that statement is not helpful and just reveals bias.

    Vik, are you aware almost everything you eat, organic, natural, or otherwise has been genetically modified? So far the science indicates GMO’s are fine, and in some cases extremely helpful. Dr. Novella has a couple of blog entries on this, I highly recommend them. Ultimately the rational mind says ‘so far so good, but let’s keep a close eye on it.’ This is where you are failing to be rational Vik, you’re drawing a line without any real evidence, just a feeling that natural is better.

    “Also, please tell me the benefits of azodiacarbonamide for the body.”

    This is neither here nor there. There’s no problem with introducing it in small levels to the body. It helps the product sell in the long run so where’s the issue. It sounds repugnant at first but ultimately that’s a kneejerk response. It doesn’t hurt me if the bread looks nice and fluffy then where is the problem?

    This can also be turned around, where is it bad for the body? Dr. Novella has already broke down that in reasonable amounts there are no issues. even in huge quantities if treated responsibly, there’s no issue – this is true of just about everything right?

    Finally Vik, “natural, “raw” or “whole”, they’re labels, often use in concert or interchangeably. It’s semantics and doesn’t change your stance correct?

  74. grabulaon 05 Mar 2014 at 1:21 am

    “You seem to really be upset. Look, you are telling me that I have no scientific data to back up the statement that az. is a toxin and should not be in our bread. What scientific data or studies do YOU have that it is NOT a toxin? That’s right..none. ”

    Vik1215, you need to go back and reread these blog posts then follow the links Dr. Novella provided, it’s all there. Scientifically we understand how azodiacarbonamide interacts with the body, that’s why it’s allowed in the bread.

  75. DietRichColaon 05 Mar 2014 at 1:25 am

    @vik1215

    Your arguments are non sequitors. The logic doesn’t follow.

    “Ok, let’s look at it this way..we know why spinach and bananas and oranges and avocado are good for us…why is azodiacarbonamide good for us? Can you give me a ‘pro’ for why we SHOULD consume it? What GOOD does it do for our body? What vitamins does it contain? What nutrients?”

    I put baking soda in my Tollhouse cookies. It reacts with heat to release carbon dioxide to make my cookies puff up and not be flat. That’s the only reason it’s in there. It’s a leavening agent, and does not impart any nutrition I’m aware of (the decomposition products are water and sodium carbonate) and is not particularly tasty. But if I left it out, my cookies would suck.

    We’ve already discussed WHY azodicabonamide is in the Subway bread. For just these kinds of effects. It isn’t there to add nutrition, but it is there to cook the bread faster and preserve it.

    For that matter, why add sugar to ice cream? It’s got nutrients from the milk and cream and all that without it. We already eat too much sugar in this country anyway… but that ice cream would not really be that tasty.

    If all I cared about was the nutrition in the bread, I could make myself a paste with flour and water, and eat that. The yeast is there to make the bread rise, and the salt is mostly flavor (though we do need SOME salt in our diets). But by your logic, I could pretty much just eat the flour paste and be fine. If I’m not allowed to add ANY ingredient unless it adds nutrition or vitamins… than there are a LOT of things, especially in baking, that I’m not going to be allowed to use anymore.

  76. vik1215on 05 Mar 2014 at 1:39 am

    grabula-I will go look at the Dr.Novella posts, however, I do not know what his agendas are, so I cannot take only his word as truth.

  77. DietRichColaon 05 Mar 2014 at 1:46 am

    “grabula-I will go look at the Dr.Novella posts, however, I do not know what his agendas are, so I cannot take only his word as truth.”

    That’s just it, we don’t expect you to. That’s why his posts have objective science backing them up, and where they don’t he states it or leaves it more open. That’s the wonder of having these kinds of conversations with critical thinkers! This is not a “take my word for it” kind of club!

  78. DietRichColaon 05 Mar 2014 at 1:47 am

    Vik1215, you are demonstrating so MANY of the fallacies discussed on this and other skeptical websites, you could either benefit from a very thorough reading of them:

    https://www.theskepticsguide.org/resources/logical-fallacies

    or you are really just trying to hit them all on purpose “for the lulz.”

    If you want to have a “conversation” on a website devoted to critical thinking and science education, then you shouldn’t be so adverse to engaging the denizens of said website on those terms.

    What you really are doing is bring up “points” or questions, which many of us attempt to answer. But when we ask you to engage in the same manner with our questions, you decry that you don’t need “critical thinking” and talk over our questions and just bring up more of your own “points” without addressing a single thing. This is not an argument, it is not even a conversation… it is just you saying things then screaming “la la la” until the next time for you to respond.

    If you are for real… then please… please spend some time looking at more than just this page. Read some of Dr. Novella’s other entries. Read those logical fallacies. I AM a scientist, and was already a big advocate of science education and critical thinking before I started listening to the SGU and reading this website… but this website and these people have helped me improve my reasoning skills immensely in the past few years (though I certainly have more room to grow) and I am better for it. You will be too.

  79. vik1215on 05 Mar 2014 at 1:48 am

    So, all of this aside…you really don’t mind eating things like high fructose corn syrup and azodiacarbonamide and caramel color? You truly do not believe that any of these things will harm you..maybe not instantly, but over time? I guess I just want to eat the truest, most uncomplicated form of food. Unfortunately, I have to go to bed because I have to be up very early tomorrow for my job at NASA. Good night

  80. grabulaon 05 Mar 2014 at 1:56 am

    Vik1215, I’ll reiterate what DietRich says – it’s not about one source. Dr. Novella is very good at linking his sources and that is usually just the tip of the iceberg. There are tons of sources I hit everyday, this blog, some of those he has linked on the right, and several others I’ve discovered on my own. It’s easy to portray us as “followers” but we’re not, we just generally trust Dr. Novella as a reasonable source on these things.

    Spend time reading this blog in depth, science based medicine, listen to the skeptics guide and you’ll find the ‘agenda’ is just honest interest in the science behind this stuff. We are literally surrounded by people who are too intellectually lazy to bother looking into many of the beliefs they form, typically based on bad assumptions, emotion and minute exposure to horrible sources.

    Here’s a challenge, go back and read through this comment thread. You’ll notice most of ‘us’ aren’t necessarily opposed to removing chemicals from food and so on, we’re just not prone to panic based on ignorance. We need more than just gut feelings and bad rationales before we make those kinds of decisions. What we encounter is others who appear unreasonably certain of their stance based on nothing but occasionally some dubious sources (hint: FoodBabe is not a reasonable source for science).

  81. DietRichColaon 05 Mar 2014 at 2:19 am

    Whether or not I “mind” eating HFC is irrelevant the issue at hand which is that Food Babe, an unqualified self-appointed food activist, ranted and raved and got Subway to remove azodicarbonamide, a chemical she felt was “unnatural” and somehow therefore also unhealthy, from all their bread to avoid the bad PR, all with fallacious logic, manipulated facts, and emotional reasoning. She probably thinks she has done the whole US some “good”… where really she has taught people to think with emotions instead of with their brains like good little sheeple.

    To answer your question honestly, I personally need to avoid HFC because I am slightly overweight, and need to reduce ALL of my sugar intakes and get in shape. But that doesn’t mean it needs to be banned from foods.

    I hate Subway because I can’t stand to pay $5 for a poorly made sandwich that I could easily make myself with much tastier ingredients.

    And I actually prefer an ice-cold glass of water to a Coca-Cola or Pepsi any day… though the coloring agent doesn’t much bother me. If new scientific evidence (a distinct difference from what Food Babe had) has surfaced that it truly is hazardous, it will be reduced or replaced! Yay for science and making us safer! I WOULD, however, be totally fascinated to see what would happen if they repeated the Crystal Pepsi experiment… how would they try to advertise to avert disaster this time?

    You want to eat the “truest, most uncomplicated form of food”… you go for it. But a lot of these things you are avoiding because you think they are “toxins” or “bad” really aren’t… and your logic for thinking that they aren’t isn’t sound. I would really like to see your logic regarding the issue be more refined, but in the end, no ones going to force you to eat them anyway. And even if every single compound you were worried about proved to be utterly safe, and you just said “I still want to eat what I consider to be uncomplicated food”… I would say “cool”. If you came to my house I’d even jump through whatever crazy hoops you gave me to respect your dietary needs, regardless of how asinine I felt they were. Just don’t go on national TV and scare the rest of the nation with patently untrue facts and fallacious logic, and I won’t really care.

    —–

    I too must go to bed, so I end with this:

    Sadly, whether you work at NASA or not, the statement both implies a non sequitor (the fact that you work at NASA would not imply some inherent ability to think critically or give you immunity to fallacious thinking) and an argument from authority (“I work at NASA and you don’t, therefore I just know better than you”), neither of which hold much sway here on this forum. :)

    Again, either you just having some lulz… or you should REALLY read these logical fallacies! Seriously! :)

    https://www.theskepticsguide.org/resources/logical-fallacies

  82. grabulaon 05 Mar 2014 at 2:28 am

    “So, all of this aside…you really don’t mind eating things like high fructose corn syrup and azodiacarbonamide and caramel color? You truly do not believe that any of these things will harm you..maybe not instantly, but over time?”

    we have a pretty good understanding of what our body can and can’t process. Most of the stuff people worry about goes in one end and out the other without any effects what so ever. what I don’t mind is trusting science. The health food industry demonizes a ton of stuff, sometimes based on a real vague understanding of the science. It always gives me a chuckle when natural, whole food types talk about how the corporations are lying to us and feeding us crap…like those health food companies also don’t have the bottom line in mind. In fact in some ways the larger corporations are at times more honest about their products.

    Ultimately, even though the words sound scary, or I don’t understand the chemistry and biology involved specifically, I trust science enough that if the general consensus is it’s ok, then I’m ok with it.

  83. Lukas Xavieron 05 Mar 2014 at 2:36 am

    “I am just trying to understand why and how some people cannot see that soda, (or insert other unhealthy food or drink) whether clear or colored is not good for the body.”

    WARNING! Goalpost movement in progress!

  84. rezistnzisfutlon 05 Mar 2014 at 3:06 am

    WARNING! Goalpost movement in progress!”

    Yes, and naturalistic fallacy since the beginning and ongoing.

    It’s always fascinating to watch fallacious thinking at work. Natural=good, synthetic=bad. Simple=good, complex=bad. Nevermind that a myriad “natural” and “simple” compounds, many found in foods, are highly toxic (arsenic in apples for instance). This is the difference between pseudoscience proponents and skeptics, in that skeptics will evaluate the value and merits of a substance based on its actual effects, not just on its origins. In the realm of nutrition, we realize that many “unnatural” foods (‘natural” being a completely arbitrary term that most people who use it inaccurately, and hypocritically, apply) are actually superior in many ways – not just in nutrition, but in convenience, safety, longevity of freshness, taste, etc.

    The fallacy is, obviously, that whatever originated in nature must be what we intended, so it must be “good”. Nature is what it is – there is no ought to it.

    Which segues into the related topics of tolerance and toxicity, concepts that seem to continually elude the scientifically illiterate, pseudoscientific naturalistic food snobs. For example, sugar sodas. While someone who is fighting obesity, type 2 diabetes, or hypertension may do well to avoid them, an athlete who has a relatively balanced diet can consume them without any ill effects. For one person, it’s likely unhealthy, for the other, it’s fine. Furthermore, if one consumes too much of, well, pretty much anything, there will be consequences. If the athlete were to consume 30 cans of Coke in 12 hours, they’d probably get sick. If they did so for the next 10 days, they could develop something serious, perhaps permanent. If the obese person has 1 soda a month, it probably won’t have any net effect on them. However, if the diabetic drinks the soda, depending on the severity of their condition they could be rolling the dice.

    Soda can be “good” for the body in that it relieves thirst (while I wouldn’t advocate using soda solely to relieve thirst, and some would argue the diuretic effect, that wouldn’t be enough to offset hydration). It can also simply be enjoyable. Every thing we consume doesn’t have to be nutritionally relevant in some way. The assumption being made is that it’s automatically unhealthy. Is it? No, not necessarily (see paragraph above).

    The subject of health and nutrition is so saturated with pseudoscience, CAM, and self-appointed gurus selling the next big thing, it’s little wonder most people are misinformed. Skeptical inquiry and critical thinking can help a lot with that. Science also has a long way to go in the field of nutrition, especially when it comes to the nutrition of healthy people and athletes. Aside from a few basics, honestly, there isn’t much science to hang our hats on.

  85. jruffattoon 05 Mar 2014 at 10:03 am

    Thanks for doing the legwork Steve. This came up in my high school chemistry class. I used your sources for our class discussion on both the “yoga mat chemical” and the “DHMO.”

  86. Lumen2222on 05 Mar 2014 at 10:35 am

    … what is wrong with those ingredients? Those too are “natural”. One is made from ground up insect, one is made from beaver secretions.

    This comment alone made reading through the entire thread entirely worth while. Thanks DietRichCola! I found the chemistry of food additives a fascinating read, and I’m desperately trying to figure out how to work in a factoid about “beaver secretions” into my conversations today.

    I’m inclined to not be too hard on Vik1215. Before I became interested in skepticism and critical thinking I used nearly identical argumentative methods about nearly identical topics. (I refused to eat anything processed or “unnatural” etc) The fact that Vik is here at all and continuing to engage in the conversation (even though they clearly think we’re all very wrong) indicates curiosity and interest in engaging over the topic, and I think they are genuine and not a troll.

    I think it’s important to repeat the point that DietRichCola made a couple of times that Critical Thinking is not something you “achieve” it’s a process that you have to work at continually. I fell headfirst into a fallacy during a heated argument recently and had to have it pointed out to me. The flaws of human bias are alive and kicking in everyone. Our instincts take over and our gut reactions rule us in most matters. Critical thinking is really just a method for getting outside of those responses.

  87. Bronze Dogon 05 Mar 2014 at 11:06 am

    Well, I’ve had plenty of opportunities to facepalm at the troll while reading this thread.

    On “what good does it do?”:

    I’ve been playing a game in development called Rimworld where players build a colony on a wilderness planet. One of the first things you typically build is a nutrient paste dispenser. Eating nutrient paste generates a -8 happiness penalty, but it’s better than the cumulative penalty of always eating raw food. Cooking was recently introduced so colonists can gain happiness bonuses from proper meals.

    If we rejected ingredients because they didn’t have a specific physiological benefit, we’d all be eating nutrient paste and food pills. The culinary arts exist for more than simple nourishment.

    On “obvious”:

    In my experience, prejudice loves the word “obvious” because it lets people use their indoctrination to justify itself. It’s “obvious” because “everybody knows,” or rather, because they hear a lot of people saying it and they presume that those people aren’t prone to self-deception. Just because a belief is popular doesn’t make it true. Also, there’s a lot of falsehoods that are “obvious” because they’re actually based on false premises and dodgy logic that happens to be emotionally appealing. Also, if obviousness was universally useful as a guide, we wouldn’t need to conduct careful science.

    And yeah, if something’s truly “obvious,” it wouldn’t be so hard to cite objective evidence.

    On number of ingredients:

    Again, some of us like to enjoy our food. Some of us like complex meals with layers, toppings, seasonings, just the right texture, and so forth. Some of us like simple meals, even raw foods. Even with raw plants, there’s already quite a lot of complexity. It takes serious cellular machinery to build a vegetable, and nature did most of the work without any regard for human well being. As a result, the number of ingredients does not necessarily reflect the number of chemicals. It strikes me as incredibly naive for an adult in a technological society to miss that.

    It’s only because of science that we can look back and understand just how reckless we’ve been all these centuries. Most food woos I’ve seen seem to prefer being ignorant and reckless about what’s in “natural” foods because living in a world run by chemistry and biology scares them. They want the world to conform to their “simple” opaque Platonic symbols, rather than look at food preparation as a complex, transparent, and edible exercise in chemistry.

    On toxicology:

    There’s a reason for the saying, “The dose makes the poison.” If someone tells you a common chemical is toxic without mentioning something about the dose or method of exposure, I think it’s generally best to assume they’re lying by omission or that they’ve been manipulated by such lies.

    There is no black and white distinction between “toxic” and “non-toxic.” You can overdose on anything. It makes more sense to think of “toxic” as a label for chemicals that are easy to accidentally overdose on. Black and white thinking leads many people to forget that there’s plenty of room for “grays” along with “colors” in the form of circumstances. A bag of flour in your kitchen isn’t much cause for worry. People generally don’t eat raw flour in large amounts to suffer any acute effects, and it’s not likely going to kick up much dust by itself to be a serious inhalation hazard. Working in a bread making factory that processes tons of flour every day, however, would be cause for concern and safety measures. Now replace “flour” with a “scary” “artificial” chemical with a similar hazard profile, and watch who applies a double standard.

    On the ever-present Disneyfication of nature:

    Nature is not innately subservient to humankind. Nature is not just some verdant field of flowers with twittering birds in which heroines dance and sing about wanting more out of life. Nature isn’t interested in protecting humans. Humans only manage to delude themselves into thinking that because our big brains give us the ability to take advantage of many natural processes. While there’s plenty of nice things nature, there’s no shortage of truly nasty things that we’ve distanced ourselves from as our civilization progressed. I would say the idea that nature is some kind of universal good is artificial in itself.

    As scientifically-minded people, we reject quick and easy biases like that. We want to know which ingredients are safe and effective for what purposes and under what circumstances. I see no reason to care if they’re “natural” or “artificial” so long as they’re good at what we want them to do. We want a peaceful coexistence of natural and artificial where ingredients aren’t subject to arbitrary prejudice over their origin. For that, we’re branded as lovers of artificiality in an attempt to fit us into the pointless black versus white narrative.

  88. rezistnzisfutlon 06 Mar 2014 at 5:49 pm

    Just heard a piece on NPR about how Subway has chosen to remove the ingredient due to the social pressures, which I can understand them not wanting to alienate consumers, but it’s unfortunate they had to cave to what boils down to pseudoscience fear-mongering. This seems to be a new phenomenon with the internet giving greater, and more widespread, voice to previously fringe elements. Even the journalist on NPR seemed to feel the need to acknowledge “Food Babe” in the article (giving her some free publicity on a mainstream news outlet), which is also unfortunate. There appeared to be the need for false balance in the piece where equal weight and consideration were given to the pseudoscience purveyors as much as actual scientists (they interviewed two scientists, spoke about Food Babe, and interviewed Environmental Working Group (why them? They aren’t even experts on food) who are frequently pseudoscientific fear-mongers).

    I wanted to pass on this, which illustrates the fallacious thinking of purveyors and activists:

    http://www.fanpop.com/clubs/debate/images/8642860/title/ban-dihydrogen-monoxide-fanart

  89. Mlemaon 07 Mar 2014 at 4:54 am

    I think I’d still be more worried about the sodium nitrite in the meats and the ubiquitous sugars in the bread, meat, etc.

  90. ebohlmanon 09 Mar 2014 at 10:11 pm

    Food Babe’s “accomplishment” reminds me of another accomplishment: Back in the 1980s, the American hate group [1] known as the American Family Association successfully forced Terrytoons to edit out a scene in an episode of The New Adventures of Mighty Mouse. In the scene, Mighty Mouse smells some crushed flowers given to him by a poor (murine) girl. The AFA insisted that the scene was intended to promote cocaine use, and its then-leader Donald Wildmon publicly stated that the fact that they removed it under pressure meant it really was intended to promote cocaine use. [2]

    [1] Designated as such by the SPLC largely because they incessantly claim that gay men are especially likely to molest children.

    [2] The fact that the episode in question was done by Ralph Bakshi probably had a lot to do with it.

  91. MikeLewinskion 11 Mar 2014 at 12:31 am

    A point of pedantry: even if azodicarbonamide were fatally poisonous at any dose, it would still not technically be a toxin. This is because the term ‘toxin’ refers only to substances produced by living organisms and azodicarbonamide has synthetic origins. A few sources:

    Merriam-Webster:

    a poisonous substance that is a specific product of the metabolic activities of a living organism and is usually very unstable, notably toxic when introduced into the tissues, and typically capable of inducing antibody formation

    American Heritage Dictionary:

    A poisonous substance, especially a protein, that is produced by living cells or organisms and is capable of causing disease when introduced into the body tissues but is often also capable of inducing neutralizing antibodies or antitoxins.

    Random House Kernerman Webster’s College Dictionary

    any poison produced by an organism, including the bacterial toxins that are the causative agents of tetanus, diphtheria, etc., and such plant and animal toxins as ricin and snake venom.

    Collins English Dictionary:

    any of various poisonous substances produced by microorganisms that stimulate the production of neutralizing substances (antitoxins) in the body.

    Wikipedia:

    A toxin is a poisonous substance produced within living cells or organisms; synthetic substances created by artificial processes are thus excluded.

    Now the word ‘toxic’ has broader definitions that can include detrimental effects from synthetic substances. I think that its broader meaning has been backported (and won’t be surprised as various dictionaries eventually modify to reflect common usage).

  92. Mlemaon 13 Mar 2014 at 6:23 am

    Interesting. Perhaps we could refer to azodicarbonamide as “one of those useless crap ingredients US food industry puts in our food to make more food out of less food.” :)

  93. BillyJoe7on 13 Mar 2014 at 8:28 am

    Interesting. Perhaps you would prefer the flour and water experience to the smell, taste, amd texture of freshly baked bread. :)

  94. Mlemaon 14 Mar 2014 at 3:38 am

    what does that even mean BillyJoe? Man, I swear, it doesn’t matter what comments I make, you are determined to make some kind of retort to me. Are you obsessed with me? Seriously, what does your comment mean? Why would I want flour and water instead of the smell, taste and texture of freshly baked bread? What does the smell, taste and texture of freshly baked bread have to do with azodicarbonamide? I can get all kinds of freshly baked bread at a bakery in my town. There’s no azodicarbonamide in any of it. The bread is prepared and baked on site. They also make sandwiches. Why in hell would I go to subway? Because I like sugary bread you don’t have to chew because the foaming agent ensured it has little substance and dissolves in saliva? No thanks. Maybe after I lose my teeth (which will never happen because I chew real bread.) oh boy. i am caving some of their sourdough right now.

  95. Bill Openthalton 14 Mar 2014 at 4:45 am

    Mlema –

    Maybe after I lose my teeth (which will never happen because I chew real bread.)

    Actually, chewing real bread will not by itself guarantee that you’ll die with your own teeth. On the contrary, eating carbohydrates, even in moderate quantities, leads to cavities at a relatively early age, as proved by Ötzi the Iceman. He still had all his teeth when he died, but then he was only 40 years old…

  96. rezistnzisfutlon 14 Mar 2014 at 4:52 am

    Man, I swear, it doesn’t matter what comments I make, you are determined to make some kind of retort to me.

    It’s because you make inane, nonsensical statements contrary to logic and reason on a skeptical forum all the time, what do you expect? You’ll be called on your numerous and frequent BS as long as you continue to make them. You’re veritably steeped in ideology and even pseudoscience, that much is clear by now.

    In the context of the current conversation, you imply that certain ingredients should be removed from specific food items, for what, the sake of purity? You have yet to demonstrate any good reason to do so. There are no known harmful effects in the low quantities present, nor are there known cumulative effects. There is far more danger in over-consumption of the wheat by itself than there is in any extra ingredients intended to improve the eating experience.

  97. grabulaon 14 Mar 2014 at 5:26 am

    “Interesting. Perhaps we could refer to azodicarbonamide as “one of those useless crap ingredients US food industry puts in our food to make more food out of less food.”

    The point is that you make false assumptions…naturalistic fallacies…..strawmen…take your pick. Your logic is falacious, billy just chooses to mirror your mistakes as ridicule.

  98. Bruceon 14 Mar 2014 at 5:36 am

    “Your logic is falacious,”

    I read that as felacious… does that mean his logic blows?

  99. Mlemaon 14 Mar 2014 at 6:02 am

    Bill, I like that comment. It was most in keeping with the humorous thread I was attempting in my own. :) Yeah, I find swishing a little coffee with heavy whipping cream around in my mouth, good and hot, keeps my teeth squeaky clean for hours.

    rez, thanks for sharing your opinions.

    grabula, what false assumption? what naturalistic fallacy? what strawmen? are you just enjoying insulting me? BillyJoe and I have a long history on this site. Stay out of it, you don’t know what we’ve got and you’re going to corrupt it. But, just out of curiousity, what mistake did he mirror?

  100. Mlemaon 14 Mar 2014 at 6:15 am

    BillyJoe, it has just occurred to me that your comment was mimicry of my own as a friendly mockery. Was that the case? I’m so disturbed that our friendship might be negatively affected by my misinterpretation, and me flying off the handle. Don’t let these others come between us ;)
    really man, sorry if you were just being funny. I just feel like you pick on me too much sometimes.

  101. Dan Ion 14 Mar 2014 at 2:08 pm

    The first thing I thought of when Steve mentioned this was banned as a blowing agent was that we better ban water.

    After all, wouldn’t you want to ban liquid water as an inhalant?

  102. SteveAon 18 Mar 2014 at 9:54 am

    When irony attacks….

    I just tried out a new waffle recipe to make a batch that have the same consistency and flavour of yoga mats.

  103. Bruceon 18 Mar 2014 at 10:43 am

    That probably has more to do with the technician, formulation and preparation than the constituents.

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