Starbucks China admits the wheat flour in its pastries contains the additive Azodicarbonamide, which is often used to produce foamed plastics such as yoga mats and the soles of sneakers, reports the financial news website of Chinese webportal NetEase.
The use of the food additive is completely in line with China's food safety regulations, Starbucks China told domestic media. The law specifies that the chemical is a legal food additive and can be added to flour during food processing.
Azodicarbonamide has also been added into the raw materials of steamed bums and breads because it increases dough's strength, makes the pastries softer and the bread look whiter, boosting their sales on the shelves.
The chemical is considered a legal food additive in North America but banned in the EU, Australia, New Zealand, Singapore and Japan. The US Food and Drug Administration permits the use of the chemical as a bleaching agent in flour if it does not exceed 0.0045% of the flour's weight. China limits the amount of the additive in wheat flour to 0.045g per kilogram.
Sources in the medical sector said the chemical could destroy vitamins in flours, affecting the absorption of calcium in the human body and could also damage vital organs leading to cancers. A report the WHO published in 1999 said the chemical could induce asthma.
The food additive came to people's attention after restaurant chain Subway was found using it in its breads. CNN subsequently reported that it has also been used widely in bread at McDonald's, Starbucks and Burger King.