Molecule of the Week
April 7, 2014
Azodicarbonamide, the diamide of azodicarboxylic acid, is an orange-red crystalline solid. It is made industrially by the condensation reaction between hydrazine sulfate and urea under high temperature and pressure, followed by oxidation with NaOCl.
Azodicarbonamide has several commercial uses: It is a blowing agent for foaming rubbers and plastics, a bleaching (oxidizing) agent in cereal flours, and a dough conditioner for baking bread.
In the United States, azodicarbonamide has GRAS (generally recognized as safe) status for food use. The World Health Organization also says it’s safe. But European countries and Australia have banned its use in food products, and some European countries have outlawed it for making plastics that come into contact with food. Some studies suggest that consuming it or its byproducts may lead to respiratory problems.
Earlier this year, the Subway fast-food chain, calling it a “shoe rubber chemical”, decided to remove azodicarbonamide from its bread-making process.