Food Safety – BHA and BHT Cancerous Food Preservatives and Additives?

What’s worse: safe, wholesome food with a lack of color, or a nice, colorful, preserved food that could someday spark cancer or cause other abnormalities?

This article will briefly cover two very common and known carcinogenic food ingredients: Butylated Hydroxyanisole (BHA) and Butylated Hydroxytoluene (BHT). These chemicals are most commonly added to processed foods such as sausage, meat patties, processed burgers, hot dogs, cereals, chewing gums, and other similar items as an anti-oxidizer to help preserve fat and extend shelf life. BHA is listed as a known carcinogen, while BHT is considered (as many other toxic food ingredients) as “Not Classifiable” under carcinogenic effects.

Preservatives – Good or Bad?

The primary reason to add preservatives to food consumed by the population is to produce a product with a nice appearance and extend shelf life. A nice “red-colored” cured ham does look much better than a brown or dark colored ham that has not been treated with preservatives. But which one would be the healthier ham? What part of the human anatomy needs preservatives?

The human body is not concerned with the colors of the food that the population consumes, but it is concerned with the toxic and often residual preservatives that are ingested. Most “Natural Alternative” preservatives are safe and suitable for consumption – since they were derived from a natural source such as a plant; but processed, man-made preservatives are not acceptable for ingestion.

Often when preservatives are ingested, the body tries to remove them from the digestive system – usually with diarrhea or some other symptom. While these ingredients are allowed in the consumer’s food chain, it is up to the consumer to make the decision on whether or not he/she wants to eat foods full of preservatives. The two preservatives listed below, BHA and BHT, are two very common preservatives found in many foods.

Butylated Hydroxyanisole (BHA)

The most important factor to the Food Processor is making money. If they can not produce a product that has a very long shelf life, then that product will be discarded and the food processor will lose money. So most of them introduce chemicals such as butylated hydroxyanisole (BHA) to extend the shelf life of their products and allow them a better chance to be sold.

BHA has been proven to cause cancer in laboratory animals and has been directly linked with human cancers. MSD Sheets on BHA declare this ingredient as a “Possible for Human” carcinogen. People strongly desire this chemical to be removed from the food chain. As of November 10, 2010, a petition to prohibit the use of BHA has been issued to the FDA.

Butylated Hydroxytoluene (BHT)

Of BHA and BHT, butylated hydroxytoluene is listed as a “not-classifiable” carcinogen in humans. Meaning the results from the test was not complete, or the results were not listed. This food additive, often used along with BHA, is not a necessary ingredient. If food is properly refrigerated or frozen it will retain its shelf life while at the same time eliminating the need for these two hazardous anti-oxidants.

There are not many “official” studies available to review for BHT, other than animal studies which normally show negative affects of ingesting BHT. The issue with consuming BHT (and other food preservatives) is the long-term affect they have on humans. Over a period of time, residues from preservatives accumulate in the body – likely leading to cancer and other health issues.

One interesting factor of BHT is its potential to function as an anti-cancer agent. Studies show that BHT produces positive and negative affects on various species of animals but compared with most studies – it is probably better to not ingest these chemicals!

Bottom Line on Food Preservatives

People can live without food preservatives. Studies show both good and bad results from consuming food preservatives, but if they are not eaten, the consumer can assure they are not eating hazardous ingredients. By law, food products must list all ingredients on the product label. If the consumer takes a few minutes to review the label, he/she will have a clear understanding as to what they (or their children) will consume.

BHA and BHT are both often used simultaneously in the same product. This method allows the consumer to ingest a “double dose” of carcinogenic additives.

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