By Mike Pomranz
Updated August 09, 2016
Credit: © Joe Raedle/Getty Images

Back before Subway’s top priority became distancing itself from its convicted spokesman in 2015, the company had just finished dealing with another public outcry the year before – “yoga mat” bread.

As you may recall, in 2014, alarmist extraordinaire Vani “The Food Babe” Hari launched a crusade against Subway’s use of a chemical known as azodicarbonamide in its bread – helping her campaign resonate by pointing out that the chemical is also found in another product her readership is very familiar with: yoga mats. Just days later, thanks to a 78,000-plus signature strong petition, Subway announced it would reformulate its bread to remove the chemical. And that was that. Or so it seemed.

But as Bloomberg recently revealed, possibly the biggest part of the story is what we didn’t hear. While Subway was taking the full brunt of the anti-azodicarbonamide attack, plenty of other fast food chains were probably shaking in their boots. McDonald’s, Chick-fil-A, Wendy’s, White Castle, Jack in the Box, Dunkin’ Donuts, Burger King and Arby’s are some of the major brands that have axed or reduced inclusion of the offending multisyllabic compound – used as a “dough conditioner” – in the Subway aftermath. But unlike the sandwich seller, none of these companies touted the policy change – presumably in part because they didn’t want to be associated with ever having used the chemical in the first place. “They don't want to bring unnecessary attention to their ingredient decks,” said Vani Hari.

Of course, these chains probably would never admit that outright. In fact, White Castle presented Bloomberg with a slightly different perspective. “I consider our brand a little more humble in terms of not patting ourselves on the back,” White Castle spokesman Jamie Richardson was quoted as saying.

But regardless, the ramifications are clear. Not all publicity is good publicity – for instance, if the publicity accuses your buns of being similar to a baked yoga mat. In that case, you’re better off quietly meditating.