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Subway taking "Yoga Mat" sandwiches off the menu

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Sandwich chain Subway says it will remove a chemical found in yoga mats from its bread by next week. The chemical, called azodicarbonamide, is also found in other food products, including some breads sold in supermarkets.

The substance was dubbed the “yoga mat” chemical after a blogger known as FoodBabe called attention to the chemical’s presence in non-food products including yoga mats, shoe rubber, and synthetic leather.

She earlier commended Subway for responding to "me and now over 58,000 concerned citizens. Their swift action is a testament to what power petitions and individuals can have."

The Food and Drug Administration has approved the chemical for use as a bleaching agent and dough conditioner.

Subway isn’t the only big chain to use it in the U.S. Other restaurants, including McDonald's, Wendy's, Dunkin' Donuts also use it. 

But activists circulated a petition pressuring Subway to discontinue the chemical’s use.

The chain told The Associated Press that it will completely phase out the azodicarbonamide from its bread by next week.

Tony Pace, Subway's chief marketing officer, stressed to the AP that the company was already in the process of removing the ingredient from its bread, and had planned to before Hari's petition raised the issue, USA Today reports. 

"You see the social media traffic, and people are happy that we're taking it out, but they want to know when we're taking it out," Pace said. "If there are people who have that hesitation, that hesitation is going to be removed."

Subway is privately held and doesn't disclose its sales figures. But it has apparently been feeling pressure from the uproar.

Pace says Subway is "happy to invite consumers back in who might've had hesitation," and the company has already tested "Azo-free bread" in four markets this past fall.

NBC News notes azodicarbonamide is banned in Europe for its link to respiratory illnesses when it is manufactured or handled in raw form, and in other countries because when broken down it forms a chemical considered to be carcinogenic in mice.

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