Food additives are beneficial because they help prolong the shelf life of certain items, as well as enhance the flavor of some foods. That doesn't mean, however, that food additives are good for you. Butylated hydroxyanisole, or BHA, is one food additive to consider nixing from your diet. Though the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has determined that BHA is "generally recognized as safe," or GRAS, certain research studies suggest otherwise.
BHA is a chemical food additive that helps prevent foods that contain oils from going rancid. The U.S. Department of Agriculture allows food manufacturers to add BHA to foods as long as they adhere to guidelines that dictate how much is used. The Department of Health and Human Services, however, cautions humans to avoid BHA because certain studies show that it's potentially dangerous.
Many brands of breakfast cereal contain BHA to help preserve the grains and help them last longer before going rancid or stale. Other oil-containing foods, such as potato chips and dry drink mixes, also contain BHA, as do actual oils, including vegetable oil and shortening. In addition, commercially prepared bread, chewing gum and dehydrated potato products can contain the food additive.
Reasons for Concern
Though the FDA continues to approve BHA as an acceptable food additive, certain research studies show that BHA might do more harm than good. Kylie Floate, author of "The Undeniable Truth about Food," notes that BHA can accumulate in your body. There is a reasonable amount of research to suggest that BHA is a human carcinogen, as well, according to the Department of Health and Human Services National Toxicology Program. Though the link between BHA and cancer has only been shown in animal studies, it stands to reason that similar risks might have a negative impact on humans, too.
If you're worried about the potentially harmful effects of BHA, read food labels carefully. If BHA is in a product, it must be listed in the ingredient list. Cooking food at home, from scratch, is another way to reduce your exposure to the food additive. For example, boiling your own potatoes to make mashed potatoes is a BHA-free way to enjoy the food, whereas boxed mashed potato flakes can contain BHA.
- Center for Science in the Public Interest: Chemical Cuisine
- U.S. Food and Drug Administration: Food Additives Permitted for Direct Addition to Food for Human Consumption
- The Undeniable Truth about Food; Kylie Floate
- Department of Health and Human Services National Toxicology Program: Butylated Hydroxyanisole