Subway’s original slogan “Eat Fresh” is met with irony due to recent news that azodicarbonamide is a known ingredient in their bread. Subway hopes to get fresh by officially removing the ingredient from their U.S. recipe. The decision to a remove the ingredient from their bread marks a health victory for U.S. Subway fans. Only U.S. Subways use azodicarbonamide, while European versions of the franchise boast freshness much more conducive to their slogan. While one deli-chain receives a health upgrade, the bigger issue is evaluating the success of blogger Food Babe’s campaign.
Food Babe is a food blog written by Vani Hari, who began her petition against Subway’s use of azodicarbonamide in 2012. She was shocked by her discovery of the bread ingredient, and its link to health issues like asthma and skin irritation. Azodicarbonamide is commonly used to make yoga mats more elastic and in the manufacturing of shoe rubber. It doubles as a bleaching agent in bread making, and is also an ingredient in McDonald’s infamous McRib sandwich.
However this is not the first time an ingredient has worked dual purposes in for food and industry. Hemp is an ingredient that is can be used to make flour for bread, in addition to fiber for clothing. The big difference between an multi-functional ingredient like hemp and azodicarbonamide are the degrees of separation between its by-product and nature. Hari was so concerned with Subway’s FDA approved use of azodicarbonamide, because it is a wildly chemical substance.
In 2001, a truck spilled while transporting the bread ingredient and locals were warned to stay clear as over-ingestion was toxic. Hari relayed this info to her readers, and created a petition about bread that marks a great victory for the health conscious. She gained over 75,000 signatures via social media. Unfortunately Hari’s petition to promote healthier options for consumers did not receive as many signatures as the 250,000 signatures to deport Justin Bieber. Nonetheless, Hari’s efforts have been met with great success.
Bread isn’t the only health victory under Hari’s belt. In the past she has been able to persuade big companies like Kraft and Chic-Fil-A. Her Kraft petition gained a whopping 300,000 signatures while her Chic-Fil-A campaign gained a direct meeting with corporate. Hari is has not been educated in food science or biology. Hari is an ex-consultant, who after a disgruntled experience in corporate coupled with weight gain, decided to focus on health. As a result, Hari can attribute a lot of her success with Food Babe to a communication formula derived from her consulting background. After all, to elicit such a wide scale change with Subway bread on 75,000 signatures is an admirable feat; 75,000 is not a large number compared to the general population, but it was enough to gain a media response.
Timing is also an important factor when assessing Hari’s success. She released her petition on February 4th, in response to news that First Lady Michelle Obama would be endorsing Subway as a positive heart health option. With great timing, Hari was able to ride the media wave initiated by Michelle Obama. The best way to emulate Subway’s new bread recipe and mark another health victory is to learn from Hari. Properly timed communication can achieve anything.
By Victoria Chuidian