Sandwich lovers will be relieved to find the chemical azodicarbonamide is not used in the bread supplied to Hong Kong branches of the international restaurant chain Subway, a spokesperson for the company told the South China Morning Post on Tuesday.
Azodicarbonamide is a chemical ingredient used in baking as a dough conditioner, but it is also a component in the production of yoga mats and shoes.
The Connecticut-based American fast food franchise announced last week it would remove azodicarbonamide from its bread recipe in the US after a food blogger there protested, arguing the chemical is linked to health issues like allergies and asthma .
Bread used in Subway's Hong Kong and Macau shops is imported from New Zealand, where the chemical is not used in making dough, the spokesperson said in Hong Kong.
Subway has also denied using the chemical in bread for sandwiches sold in the mainland. In a statement on its official Chinese website - issued after stories of use of a "rubber shoe material" in its US bread went viral on Chinese social media over the weekend - the company said:
"Azodicarbonamide is not present in any bread sold in China Subway restaurants. However, while it is fully approved by relevant government authorities in the USA, this particular ingredient is already in the process of being removed from US bread."
Many Chinese internet users said on Tuesday they were surprised the problem was found in US, a country many believed held a higher standard of food safety than their own.
"I am never going to eat there again," many bloggers wrote after learning of the controversy.
Others said they didn't care.
"We Chinese have been eating so many toxic chemicals by now, it doesn't harm to take a little more," one wrote sarcastically.
A CNBC report revealed last week that azodicarbonamide was being used in food manufacture by other fast food restaurants in US, including Burger King, McDonald's and Wendy's.
Starbucks, the American chain expanding quickly in the mainland, told the Chinese media the chemical is present in some bread and cakes sold in its coffee shops there and its use is in line with the law.