Background on Azodicarbonamide and Its Use in Bread

You may have heard about azodicarbonamide (pronounced “az-oh-dye-car-BON-uh-mide”) and its use in fresh-baked bread products. Here’s what you really need to know about azodicarbonamide in bread.

Azodicarbonamide is an approved ingredient that is used in flour and bread dough, which results in increased loaf volume, finer grain, softer texture, and superior dough-handling properties. Many bread products that we enjoy at many convenient restaurants contain azodicarbonamide or some other form of an agent to ensure consistency, flavor, and texture.

According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA)—the U.S. regulatory body that oversees the safety of ingredients in our food supply—azodicarbonamide can be safely used at levels up to 45 parts per million (ppm) as the following:

  • An aging and bleaching ingredient
  • A dough conditioner

The FDA states: "Azodicarbonamide is approved in the United States as a food additive for certain uses in cereal flour and bread-making. As part of FDA's overall commitment to ensure the safety of the food supply, the agency uses an extensive, science-based process to evaluate the safety of food additives. Under FDA regulations, safety for food additives means that there is a reasonable certainty of no harm when an additive is used within the intended conditions of use. The agency monitors the safety of food additives, including azodicarbonamide, and is prepared to take appropriate action if safety concerns arise.”

There is no scientific evidence to suggest azodicarbonamide, as it is currently used, is a public health or safety concern.

Some have expressed concern about semicarbazide (SEM), which is a byproduct of azocarbonamide. However, the European Food Safety Authority has stated “that the risk, if any, from consumption of foods containing SEM is judged to be very small, not only for adult consumers but also for infants” and that “the issue of carcinogenicity is not of concern for human health at the concentrations of SEM encountered in food.”

As of Feb. 10, 2014, SEM is listed by the International Agency for Research on Cancer as "not classifiable as to its carcinogenicity to humans." SEM does not appear on California's Proposition 65 list of "Chemicals Known to the State to Cause Cancer or Reproductive Toxicity." The National Toxicology Program's "12th Report on Carcinogens" does not list SEM either as a "Known Human Carcinogen" or a "Reasonably Anticipated Human Carcinogen."

Resources:

FDA Federal Register on Azodicarbonamide
http://www.accessdata.fda.gov/scripts/cdrh/cfdocs/cfCFR/CFRSearch.cfm?fr=172.806

FDA Information on Food Additives
http://www.fda.gov/food/ingredientspackaginglabeling/foodadditivesingredients/ucm094211.htm

International Food Information Council Foundation: “What’s in Our Food”
http://www.foodinsight.orgWhat_s_in_Our_Food_Understanding_Common_Food_Ingredients

European Food Safety Authority Opinion on Semicarbazide in Food
http://www.efsa.europa.eu/en/efsajournal/doc/219.pdf