BHA and BHT : The ‘fuel’ you didn’t know you were eating

What do most cereals and gasoline have in common?

With that question you may be asking yourself; how can there be anything in common between gasoline and the cereal that I eat? The sad truth is that there is. BHA (Butylated hydroxyanisole) and BHT (butylated hydroxytoluene) are added to most cereals and cereal packaging as a preservative.

Both are products of petroleum.

BHA and BHT are made through reactions of products extracted from coal tar, and components of natural gas and crude oil. Doesn’t that sound tasty? They’re adding petroleum products to our food.

As we eat BHT and BHA, it stays in our body and continues to accumulate. This is because the human body cannot excrete it or otherwise eliminate it. This causes long-term problems. Both can cause cell death (apoptosis) and damage cells (cytotoxic) in humans. They have been known to impair blood clotting and promote tumor growth. They have also been implicated in behavioral issues in children. In addition, BHA can trigger headaches for those afflicted with migraines. Both BHT and BHA are related to TBHQ, another toxic preservative I wrote about in a previous post “What’s in my Chocolate Bar?

BHA and BHT are not yet banned in the USA or Canada but are banned in Japan, England and in most European countries. It is banned because of its toxicity and because healthy alternatives to reducing food spoilage are available. You would never put cereal in your gasoline so why put petroleum in your cereal? Especially when there is a natural alternative to BHA or BHT. Yes, many cereal producers add Tocopherols (Vitamin E) to preserve freshness. Our bodies need vitamin E and this is a good natural alternative for cereal producers to increase the shelf life of their products and keep it safer for us!

So really General Mills, do you really need to put BHT in Wheaties? You may call it the breakfast of champions, but you are hurting all our champions, our kids!

If food manufacturers continue to put it into our food and packaging perhaps, instead of Kellogg’s or Post saying “BHT added to preserve freshness”, they should say “petroleum products added, proceed with caution”!

So DO proceed with caution and DON’T mix your cereal and petroleum products. Check your cereal boxes for BHT and BHA and read the labels of cereals to find better alternatives. You might be surprised what you find, many of your favorite flavored brand cereals are produced by other companies without the nasty preservatives. (please visit “The Nasty List” of bad ingredients)

Action Item: Look for BHA and BHT on labels of food.

  • You will find it on boxes of Cheerios, Frosted Flakes and many cereals produced by General Mills, Post and Kellogg’s. Almost all Kellogg’s cereals say, “BHT added to packaging for freshness.”
  • Quaker Oats 100% Natural Whole Grain Oats DO NOT contain BHA/BHT.
  • Trader Joe’s cereals DO NOT contain BHA or BHT either.
  • Whole Foods is a grocery chain that DOES NOT allow BHA or BHT in their grocery or cosmetic items.
  • DO NOT feel guilty that you have it in your kitchen, do something about it! I used to have products that contained BHA and BHT as well.

Bottom line: There are safe alternatives to BHA and BHT. There is no need for it to be in our food supply.

Evidence that human cells can be damaged by BHA/BHT:
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23413972
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/14981915

Evidence of tumors in rats given BHA in their diet:
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/3804120

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