Have you ever read the ingredient list on the food that you eat? If not, then you are not alone. Most of us do not look beyond the nutritional value and branding while buying our food. But, do you know that many of the foods you consume daily contain an ingredient that is considered controversial by a large section of people? Yes, we are talking about TBHQ, which is used as a preservative in many food products. In this article, we will explore everything that you need to know about TBHQ and why it is creating a buzz in the food industry.
What is TBHQ?
TBHQ or tertiary butylhydroquinone is a synthetic antioxidant that is used to increase the shelf life of food. It is a white crystalline powder that is derived from petroleum. TBHQ is added to unsaturated vegetable oils, snack foods, processed foods, and other food products to prevent the oxidation of fats and oils. It is approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in the USA as a food additive since 1972. TBHQ is a stable and safe colorless substance that is used in small amounts, usually less than 0.02 percent by weight of the food product.
How is TBHQ made?
TBHQ is made from hydroquinone, which is a toxic substance, and is derived from petroleum. The manufacturing process involves dissolving hydroquinone in isobutylene and then oxidizing it using air or oxygen. The resultant product is purified by crystallization and recrystallization to obtain a white, solid, and stable compound.
What foods contain TBHQ?
TBHQ is commonly used in processed foods, oils, and snacks to increase their shelf life. Some popular foods that contain TBHQ are:
- Instant noodles
- Potato chips
- Chicken nuggets
- Cheese crackers
- Candy bars
- Vegetable oils
- Baked goods
- Frozen fish
- Fast food
These are just a few examples, and TBHQ is used in many other food products as well.
Is TBHQ safe for consumption?
The safety of TBHQ has been a topic of debate for a long time. While the FDA considers TBHQ safe for consumption, some studies have shown that it can have harmful effects on health if consumed in large amounts over a prolonged period. Here are some of the side effects associated with TBHQ consumption:
Some people may have an allergic reaction to TBHQ, which can cause hives, itching, and swelling of the face, tongue, or throat. In severe cases, it can lead to an anaphylactic shock, which is a life-threatening condition.
TBHQ can irritate the respiratory tract, leading to symptoms such as coughing, wheezing, and shortness of breath. People who are already suffering from asthma or other respiratory problems are at a higher risk of experiencing these symptoms.
Excessive consumption of TBHQ can cause gastrointestinal issues such as nausea, vomiting, and stomach pain. It can also disrupt the healthy bacteria in the gut, leading to digestive problems.
Studies have shown that TBHQ can affect the central nervous system and cause symptoms such as numbness, tremors, and convulsions. Prolonged exposure to TBHQ can also cause damage to the liver.
What is the safe limit of TBHQ consumption?
The FDA has set a safe limit of 0.02 percent by weight of the food product for TBHQ consumption. This means that under normal circumstances, the amount of TBHQ consumed in a single serving of food product is usually too small to cause harm. However, prolonged and excessive consumption of TBHQ can have harmful effects on health.
Alternatives to TBHQ
Given the potential risks associated with TBHQ consumption, many food manufacturers are looking for alternatives to this synthetic antioxidant. Some of the alternatives are:
Natural antioxidants such as ascorbic acid (vitamin C), tocopherols (vitamin E), and rosemary extract are being used as substitutes for TBHQ. These antioxidants are safer and have additional health benefits.
Modified atmosphere packaging
Modified atmosphere packaging (MAP) is a method of packaging food products in which the air inside the package is modified to prevent the growth of microorganisms that cause spoilage. This method reduces the need for preservatives such as TBHQ.
In conclusion, TBHQ is a synthetic antioxidant that is commonly used in processed foods, oils, and snacks to increase their shelf life. While the FDA has approved TBHQ as safe for consumption, some studies suggest that it can have harmful effects on health if consumed in large amounts over a prolonged period. To ensure that you are consuming a healthy and balanced diet, it is important to read the ingredient list on the food products that you buy and learn about the potential side effects of the preservatives used in them.
- What is TBHQ made of? – TBHQ is made from hydroquinone, which is a toxic substance, and is derived from petroleum.
- What foods contain TBHQ? – TBHQ is commonly used in processed foods, oils, and snacks to increase their shelf life. Some popular foods that contain TBHQ are instant noodles, potato chips, chicken nuggets, cheese crackers, candy bars, vegetable oils, baked goods, frozen fish, and fast food.
- Is TBHQ safe for consumption? – While the FDA has approved TBHQ as safe for consumption, some studies suggest that it can have harmful effects on health if consumed in large amounts over a prolonged period. The safe limit of TBHQ consumption is 0.02 percent by weight of the food product.
- What are the alternatives to TBHQ? – Natural antioxidants such as ascorbic acid (vitamin C), tocopherols (vitamin E), and rosemary extract, and Modified atmosphere packaging (MAP) are some of the alternatives to TBHQ.