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September 24, 2010

What is BHT preservative?

Many of our foods are loaded with all sorts of additives. It is important to learn about them so you can judge for yourself what to avoid, as well as how to avoid it. Factory farming and high volume production of foods means that many different preservatives and preservative methods are added in our foods that we may not be fully aware of.

BHT, also known as Butylated Hydroxytoluene, is a food additive used to help prevent spoilage. It is typically added to foods that are high in fats and oils, which can turn rancid quickly if left untreated. Manufacturers have been using this preservative, along with its closely related counterpart, BHA, since the 1950’s.

The substance works as an antioxidant, preventing the food from turning from exposure to oxygen. This can increase the shelf life of foods as well as allow them to keep their flavor and color for a longer period of time. BHT is also used to prolong the use of cosmetics by preventing separation of the different ingredients. The packaging that the foods are placed in may also contain BHT to decrease the possibility of the item spoiling before it can be purchased by consumers.

For example, BHT and BHA are commonly used in breakfast cereals, potato chips, shortening, chewing gum, and other foods that have a high fat or oil content to name a few. There is an ongoing debate on whether the additives are necessary, as well as whether they are harmful to humans who consume them regularly.

Many people speculate that they may be carcinogens, causing cancer and tumors in those that choose not to limit their intake. The FDA has deemed them safe to use after performing several studies however there is concern that their studies are not independently done and actually financed and completed by the food manufacturer so the results may be subject to bias. The FDA does however, require that the preservatives be listed in the ingredients of foods that contain them, allowing those that wish to stay away from these additives the ability to do so.

So how can you avoid these chemicals in your food? I’m glad you asked. You know it is important for your health and the health of your family to cook meals as close to nature as possible. Read labels, shopping at whole food stores or farmers markets, grow your own when possible, participate in CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) to find meats, fruits and vegetables that are not treated with these toxic chemicals. You can look for your local CSA organization near you by visiting www.localharvest.org.

You can do this! I know you want to provide heathy, yummy meals for your family or you would not be reading this. So don’t overwhelm yourself with worry, just do what you can to make the best choices for your families health and wellness: shop local, buy organic, grow your own, and read labels. These simple steps can go a long way in feeding our bodies the best that we can.

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