TBHQ (Mixed feelings)

Via Fark: a blog last week remarked about McDonald's chicken products, quoting The Omnivore's Dilemma::

But perhaps the most alarming ingredient in a Chicken McNugget is tertiary butylhydroquinone, or TBHQ, an antioxidant derived from petroleum that is either sprayed directly on the nugget or the inside of the box it comes in to "help preserve freshness." According to A Consumer's Dictionary of Food Additives, TBHQ is a form of butane (i.e. lighter fluid) the FDA allows processors to use sparingly in our food: It can comprise no more than 0.02 percent of the oil in a nugget. Which is probably just as well, considering that ingesting a single gram of TBHQ can cause "nausea, vomiting, ringing in the ears, delirium, a sense of suffocation, and collapse." Ingesting five grams of TBHQ can kill.

I don't know whether we should be eating high quantities of preservatives in our food, but this is just scaremongering.

A nugget containing the claimed maximum, 0.02 percent, would require you to eat 5kg to attain a TBHQ dose of 1 gram. A 20-piece order has a mass of 320g. A maximally-preserved batch of nuggets would require one to eat 312.5 nuggets (13,125 kcal/54,915 kJ) to obtain this dose. I enjoy the occasional ultra-processed nugget, but they aren't that tasty.

Second, the post assumes you don't know chemistry: TBHQ contains a butyl moiety (a tert-butyl moiety, more accurately), but so does butter, which contains esters of the blameless butyrate (when degraded to free butyrate, it's the origin of the smell of rancid butter, esterified, as in fresh butter, it's not a problem). Butter is not lighter fluid, nor is TBHQ:


Contrast the very different butane or higher alkanes (such as the six-carbon hexane), which compose real lighter fluid, which will harm you if you ingest it (or inhale too much) and won't protect your food against spoilage.

A butyl group does not butane make. It's worth noting that preservatives might not be entirely benign (you also encounter BHT and BHA, your cereal box's cardboard is probably impregnated with one of these). However, none of these are lighter fluid by a long shot.


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Okay, so TBHQ won't kill you if you eat a chicken nugget, but it's certantly isn't good for you, but as some people already pointed out, the rest of thr chicken nugget isn't really good for you either!

By Charlie Pie (not verified) on 23 Mar 2011 #permalink

Ha ha.... just found this article, cause I bought crackers that have 'the evil TBHQ' in them and was wondering what it was...

All I have to say is, you wanna grow all your own food or pay an arm and a leg for all natural un preserved organic food, which may or may not be any of the pervious, then go right ahead. I don't have the time or money to do that.

Also, I'm pretty sure eating 312 of anything would make you sick... processed or not... unless we're talking grains of rice, then you are probably fine.

Next time you eat 312 carrots and feel fine, lemme know how your orange brown eye is doing...


P.S. Will definitely be popping by for some more molecule of the day, as this was super interesting, and I love molecules!

I know one thing...after I have chicken nuggets or taco bell I sure aint smokin on the throne anymore....butane+flame=BOOM

Could tbhq have a cumulative effect on health over a long time period of eating ramen noodles or other sources regularly?

How about the food industry packaging real food without all these bad things in them to begin with? 20 Years ago it wasn't this bad. Curb the greed a little, but I guess that's asking too much.

And if 5 grams of it can KILL...and this stuff ACCUMULATES in the body...and it's now in almost all cookies, crackers, and other grain products children normally eat every day... What does this say folks? BHA and BHT was originally used in the film industry to help develop film!!!

Cue the Woo-Mongers!

I need to send the comments to Orac for your friday's dose of woo

Sensitivity vs Allergy: Sensitivity to foods/chemicals etc will produced varied uncomfortable reactions to a human's body/systems. A true allergy will move on to anaphalatic shock as those symptons increase to probable death. I have an allergy to Sulfites/MSG and have been fooled after reading ingredients and go into shock after horrible stomach pain, loss of conciesnous and un readable blood pressure. Lucky for me I carry my epi pen with me at all time and Im still here. Every time I recover from shock I will run every ingrediant on the lable and find a new sulfite word. I am sure that breathing the air is somewhat not healthy but I think for allergy safety there should be one bacic word for each group of related allergins and this one should be on the packaging of any product to make it easier for the public to protect themselves. I had a reaction from Pepsi-Max while I was at work the first time I drank it. The work nurse helped me not die. I wrote to Pepsi and told them of this reaction and suggested they research what the allergin was in that product. Of course they would not admit any probable chemicals and told me it could not have happened. I told them that had been the only subtance I had ingested and they thanked me with another "didnt happen" and sent me a $1.00 off coupon. I was not trying to sue them or bleed them, just protecting anyone else that may have the allergy to the new chemical in Pepsi Max.....No I did not use the coupon!

For those of you bashing this article, if you want to eat whatever can go in your mouth then fine do it, but for me I try to keep up to date on the TBHQ news because it makes me very sick any time I eat any of it, and I have noticed that other allergy issue's are less tolerable if I have TBHQ in my diet, so if you want to eat whatever, go for it but don't bash those people who are trying to live a better more healthy life.

So, I wouldn't be so blinkered as to ignore the EFFECTS of something ingested by humans, after all, humans can tell you how it FEELS after eating something ('chemical' or 'natural'). All the laboratory evaluations of TBHQ, BHT/BHA can give you the facts about what levels are deemed to be toxic to humans but what they don't tell you is how a young child can react after eating 'food' containing it. I hand over to my 10 year old daughter to describe how she felt EVERY TIME she ate something with TBHQ, or BHA/BHT in it. Having moved from Europe 2 years ago to USA I guess she'd never encountered it before:

"I was trying to do my homework in 4th grade and one of the questions was 100/4. My brain felt like it had a million thousand keys locking the answer and that no key would unlock it. When my Mum told me the answer I repeated it saying 'oh, yes it's 24'...even though I heard her say 25. I felt angry. My brain hurt a lot. I felt like my body was weak. I was crying and felt angry. All other times when I ate something with TBHQ in it I had the same feelings with a massive headache, feeling like I was going to throw up, like hula-hoops were bouncing around in my stomach. The foods I remember eating with this in were 'Little Debbie nutty bars', 'M&M bite size cookies', 'Wrigley's gum (this was my worst feeling)', KFC baked beans and fried chicken, McDonald's french fries (just a few of these). I think TBHQ is the worst thing ever invented - I'd say it should win a prize for the worst preservative ever."

Of course after realizing the connection, we don't expose our daughter to anything containing these chemicals now and our whole family eats a much better diet. Bottom line: always read the ingredients of the 'food' you're eating and I would recommend avoiding TBHQ, BHA/BHT in your child's diet. Anybody know any chewing gums that don't contain these preservatives...?

By Examine the ef… (not verified) on 24 Feb 2012 #permalink

Afraid to disagree, but it's not scaremongering. My son (7 years old) vomits like clockwork every time he eats anything with TBHQ or BHT in it (or on it). No other food allergies, no sensitivities, very healthy kid. Great, nutritious eater. This stuff is poison, plain and simple.

The issue and solution is a quite simple one. Dont eat it, or anything that has it, and there is nothing left to say about it.

Wny make choices that might or might not be good for you, when you can simply not eat it and avoid the arguments.

I just loved the comments posted by Sault. My sentiments exactly. Everyone loves a scare story so here's another one to worry about: Did you know that the normal,accepted method of extracting oil from any oil seed eg soya,sunflower,cotton,palmolein,canola (now there's a big one)is extracted from the crushed seed using hexane which is a petroleum by-prduct (hey, what isn't) and is a listed carcinogen?

By Johninjoburg (not verified) on 16 Apr 2012 #permalink

The horrors of natural antioxidants ("Mommy, why is chocolate brown?") are Officially good for you. Beautifully clean and exquisitely targetted synthetic antioxidants are Officially bad. Topical hydroquinine derivatives reduce pigmentation of your browneye. Imagine how the national economy would boom if female pornstars were not chronically impoverished by the professional standard of anal bleaching.

Whipping McDonalds products with some all-natural creosote bush (nordihydroguaiaretic acid) would improve both the preservation and the taste. Save Our Children! Preserve the US food supply with massive Federal subsidies for creosote bush farmers.

Still and all, if 312 nuggets = "nausea, vomiting, ringing in the ears, delirium, a sense of suffocation, and collapse," doesn't it seem that 10 or 15 nuggets might be...not great? And especially if one was a once- or twice-weekly nugget-eater?

Just a thought.

When I read the sentence fragment "TBHQ is a form of butane" I instantly wanted to scream and claw out my eyes.

Just because a compound is harmful in large quantities does not imply that it will do anything bad in smaller ones. There is a flood of trite examples of compounds which are beneficial or necessary at small quantities but harmful when the dosage is increased 30 times. To expect different from something simply because it is synthetic is just chemophobia.

That's 0.02 percent of the oil in the nugget. While it's hard to tell exactly how much of the nugget consists of oil, 100% is likely a bit high.

Sure, if you eat 15 nuggets twice a week, you're ingesting some bad stuff - but the stuff you should be worrying about isn't TBHQ at that point...

Remember, pharmacology and toxicology only differ by dose...there are plenty of substances that can cause major problems for us in quantity that we routinely ingest in very minute amounts. In chicken nuggets, the damage you're getting from fat and cholesterol and its nutritional issues far outweigh any TBHQ you might ingest.

"Topical hydroquinine derivatives reduce pigmentation of your browneye."

Only Uncle Al can bring such visual hilarity to a post on antioxidants. Is there anything he doesn't know...

By around the cor… (not verified) on 29 Mar 2007 #permalink

I'd like to nominate the active ingredient in the anal bleach for an upcoming Molecule of the Day. I think it's important to get this information out to the public.

Shouldn't we be more worried about the chlorine in our (table) salt, a form of which is a toxic gas?
Oh wait, that's an essential element for our bodies - oops!

I agree that this sounds more like scaremongering, but most of The Omnivore's Dilemma is a real gem, especially the discussion of corn and its manifestations in our life.

Whilst doing my PhD I used 2,5-di-(t-butyl)-1,4-benzohydroquinone (i.e. TBHQ plus an extra butyl group) to induce apoptosis in isolated rat thymocytes. It does this by inhibiting the endoplasmic reticulum calcium pump, thereby flooding the cytoplasm with calcium ions. Not sure whether this provides any insights into the mechanisms by which hydroquinone derivatives remove rust from one's sheriff's badge, but I'm not sure that extensive apoptosis in the anorectal epithelia would be a good thing...


Good catch - if you use the fat content of the nuggets as an upper bound for oil, you get 2040.82 nuggets.


To visualize the difference a factor of 100 can make consider acetaminophen. 500 mg is effective pain relief. 50,000 mg is likely to kill you.

I am highly allergic to MSG and TBHQ produces similar side effects.

How about a general rule: You don't get to call something "poisonous" if the "hazardous dose" would hurt when thrown at your head?


By David Harmon (not verified) on 20 Apr 2007 #permalink


By MARLENE CUPPY (not verified) on 24 Sep 2007 #permalink

I just ingested some TBHQ.

By Navus Janus (not verified) on 18 Dec 2007 #permalink

This is a very interesting site.

Am a clinical pharmacist and appreciate the scientific information presented. My daughter is doing a science project on food preservatives and enjoyed this discussion.
Her comment was "well it won't kill us today, but I am never eating fast food again" she is 9.

The TBHQ is in the fries the buns, ubiquitous in the MCD food.

Hi, I'm not a chemist or student of science, just a mum!
Could I just throw out there (as I have been enjoying the discussion too) what about the age factor?
The nugget is particularly attractive too, and consumed by, children (with the exceptions of a few adults :) )
As I understand it, children are far less efficient at breaking down any toxins in their systems and the due to the growth and development they are going through, environmental toxins have the potntial to be far more damaging than in us adults.
I also worry about the synergistic effect for children. Their fries plus their blue sipper drink, plus the preservative in their bread, plus the sulphites in their museli bar at lunch and the fly spray mum just used in the kitchen! Toxicity may be dose related but do we know what a child's true "dose" is at the end of the day and how it is interacting with all the other stuff they come into contact with?
Unless any chemical additive is really essential, why are we putting it in again?

I just saw this TBHQ on a package, and then another, and then another! Keep reading thoes labels, and make calls to keep the labels true!







I just emailed nutrition@utzsnacks.com this link, and told them I can not believe they have taken BHT and BHA out of most premium dog food and they are putting it in Grandmas's UTZ'S Handcooked potato chips. I am angry what these company's are allowed to do and call it safe. God Bless our children.

By Donna Aumick (not verified) on 27 Feb 2008 #permalink

To answer all the questions on why this crap is in the food, one only needs to watch "ENDGAME: BLUEPRINT FOR GLOBAL ENSLAVEMENT" which is available on dvd and I believe it can also be found on utube and google video.

By Jim Dandy (not verified) on 01 Mar 2008 #permalink

You people are pathetic. i am a retard. fuck you. im smarter.
nobody cares what is in their food, as long as it tastes good. cock suckers

By Luke Taylor (not verified) on 15 Mar 2008 #permalink

I just googled this preservative because I found the ingredient in my daughters girl scout cookies!! Don't know whether to believe that it is butane but I know it can't be good. I wanted to eat another cookie. But now I feel like I can't. I am disguted by all the chemicals our governement allows to be put in our food that are outlawed all over the rest of the world. Including this preservative.

who cares? just eat

By Joe Anderson (not verified) on 22 Mar 2008 #permalink

SAY NO TO TBHQ, BHT, BHA and other noxious preservatives (all natural Vitamin E [mixed tocopherols] is ok). Each of them gives me a bad headache within a few minutes of ingestion. That's a quick pathway across the blood/brain barrier. Oh, and by the way, BHT and its lovely cousins oxidize serotonin in lab rats. That's NOT GOOD in case you didn't know it.

It's funny what a little google listing will do.

Compare the comments at the beginning of this discussion (i.e. by regular readers) and at the end (by googlenauts).

I love how these seemingly intelligent people are telling you to "just eat it", regardless of common sense (which is no longer common, by the way). Hopefully, they are taking their own advice. It is called "natural selection"! Get some chickens to do your yard/insect work for you (most cities permit a few pet chickens), and give you some eggs. Grow some of your own food, read labels, lay off the soft drinks, and reward yourself with more energy, less cancer, and a sexy tush.

I got a free coupon for a McD's chicken thing with an Amazon order. I *never* eat there, but I thought, what the heck. So I ate one for breakfast. Wow, I become so violently ill I couldn't believe it. This was not food poisoning as I am definitely prone to migraines after eating MSG - this was a severe form of that. When I could think again, I looked up the ingredients of McDs stuff and it all seemed sort of reasonable. But TBHQ stood out in my mind as something I didn't understand. After reading this, I'd bet against a day of torture by eating a McD's chicken sandwich *without* TBHQ. But until that happens, I'm going to avoid the stuff like I avoid drinking butane (even though I realize that's a chemistry coincidence). Some people are just a lot more sensitive to this kind of toxicity. I also can not metabolize alcohol in a pleasant way, for example. But to say the stuff isn't harmful is probably not quite correct. Certainly not universally correct.

By the way, just so you know, TBHQ is in Olive Garden croutons!

Of course all the hype over TBHQ seems a little trivial when we know that consuming water in excessively high quantities is deadly. Everything in moderation.

By SusanLynne_Amh… (not verified) on 30 Oct 2008 #permalink

If you really want solid info on all of these additives and perservatives, artifical flavor and artificial colors in your food, soap, clothes, toys, certain recycled things, etc.....please go to www.yourtruehealth.com. Seriously this government is corrupt. Imagine what's in medicine.

PLEASE READ (just to name a few)

Acacia (or) gum arabic- used in shoe polish, matches, cough syrup, icing,etc....umm

Ajinomoto- japanese term for MSg

Ambergis- "flavoring agent" from intestines of sperm whales...artifical flavor...right

PepsinI from a pigs stomach, used in cheese making and vitamins.

One more for the road, they say 1 in 150 children are diagnosed with ADHD, why don't they tell us that dyes play a huge part in that
ie.,red40, blue 1 and 2, yellow 5, etc... "all dyes". Which are for some reason the same dyes they use in our clothes. If you run out of juice please follow instuctions: fill container with ice cold water, wet your cheap or expensive blue shirt, wet it, ring it out over water container, add sugar and shake, wolla...blueberry juice.

TBHQ is a terrible substance, I am very allergic to TBHQ which gives my anaphylactic shock. I check everything I eat for this substance and it is in a disturbingly large amount of foods. I agree say no to TBHQ.

I discovered this blog after looking for info on side effects of tbhq. Last night after eating taco shells preserved with tbhq I became ill...vomiting,etc. I have a rare medical condition called mastocytocis and have to be careful of certain preservatives especially sulfites. I am not a stranger to anaphylactic shock. Mostly,though , a reaction manifests with g. i. upset, face flushing and headaches. It pays to read everything on the label and if you don't know what it is, don't eat it!

Read the book "More Natural Cures They Dont Want You to Know About." It will really open your eyes to why people get so sick and the sickos that help run the country!!!!!

By weinerdoglover (not verified) on 25 Jan 2009 #permalink

Iâve become aware of the poisoning of our food and have started to look closer at what Iâm eating. I am not a chemist or even a student on the subject. I noticed TBHQ in my Oreoâs 9which I wont be eating again) a looked up this mystery ingredient. This is what I found on the specification of TBHQ:
1. Description, Off white crystalline solid
2. Melting Range, 126.5°C to 128.5°C
3. Solubility, Soluble in alcohol and ether, insoluble in water
4. Assay, Min 99%
5. Hydroquinone content, Max 0.1%
6. 2,5 Ditertiary Butyl Hydroquinone content Max 0.2%
7. t-Butyl-p-Benzoquinone, Max 0.2%
8. Heavy Metals (as Pb), Max 10 ppm
9. Arsenic (as As), Max 3 ppm
10. Toluene content, Max 0.0025%
11. UV Absorbence (Polynuclear Hydrocarbons), Complies as per FCC

#5 is a type of benzene and itâs use is banned in some countries, including the member states of the European Union, it is used in photo development, it reduces silver halides to elemental silver. It is also a skin whitener. Mmm mmm good!
#6 according to a safety data sheet requires suitable protective clothing, suitable gloves and in case of insufficient ventilation, wear suitable respiratory equipment. Canât wait to eat!
#7 according to a safety data sheet requires safety glasses and adequate ventilation.
May act as a skin or eye irritant. Toxicology not fully investigated. Sounds yummy!
#9 is notoriously poisonous and is used in pesticides, herbicides, insecticides and various alloys. Canât wait to dig in!
#10 is related to benzene and is also known as methylbenzene or phenylmethane, it is a solvent and is used as paint thinner, it is also used as an inhalant drug for its intoxicating properties. It cannot exit the body via the normal routes (urine, feces, or sweat). It must be metabolized in order to be excreted and may severely damage cells. Makes me salivate!
#11 are hydrocarbon compounds with multiple benzene rings. PAHs are typical components of asphalts, fuels, oils, and greases. Very tasty!
Please correct me if Iâm wrong (cause I liked Oreoâs)

By Dylan Farrell (not verified) on 27 Jan 2009 #permalink

Bottom line for me is that TBHQ is awful. I knew nothing of this, and only learned because of my daughter's reaction to McDonalds Mcnuggets. I noticed that every time she ate them something seemed to be very wrong with her. She wasn't herself, couldn't engage with friends, and became bonkers! I did some research to find out why this happened, and lo and behold discovered TBHQ. I have since done many an observation/test with her on foods with TBHQ among other preservatives, and EVERY time they have a profound effect. Naysayers say what you will, but there is no disputing it when you see it firsthand in your child.

I found TBHQ in my favorite (no longer) snack of Cheez-its...

Lost my taste for them...

Annie B

Chalk me up as another one that gets migraines from TBHQ.... and MSG, and these other preservatives: BHA, BHT, sulfites, sodium phosphate (I think this is an additive, not technically a preservative), sodium nitrate/nitrite, calcium disodium EDTA, tetrasodium EDTA. And yes, quantity matters. The more I eat, the more intense the migraine.

But the most important info I have for anyone who suspects problems from such chemicals: for me, it takes anywhere from 4-36 hours for the headache to start. MSG is pretty quick, but TBHQ takes 16+ hours or so. This made/makes it very difficult to find the offending ingredients. I have to stay off all additives for 2-3 days, only try ONE new item, then wait 2-3 days before I can truly isolate a perpetrator. And then I have to question if I ate a sufficient quantity to produce a noticeable effect. Contrast my experience with Peter who says it affects him within a few minutes. My dad has similar problems, and he can eat BHT in cereal once, but if he eats it 2-3 days in row, it accumulates and makes him sick.

I'm sure many can eat this crap until they're 95 and never have a problem. If they want to believe their body can handle it over the long term just fine, whatever. Hope it works out for them.

Dylan, you should try Newman's Organics Newman'Os - they're organic oreo cookies and they're delicious!
By the way, thanks for your comments - I concur!

By Clare Brady (not verified) on 05 Apr 2009 #permalink

I can accept a personâs point of view but, when misinformation is disseminated to the masses, I just can't let that slide. Let me clarify something about BTHQ, it is not a naturally occurring molecule when butter ferments, as one post proclaims, butyric acid or butanoic acid, however, is! Butyric acid is a fatty acid. The triglyceride of butyric acid makes up 3% to 4% of butter and when butter ferments, it releases an unpleasant odor. BTHQ is a harmful chemical preservative along with BHA and BHT, which are just the tip of the iceberg of the preservatives the FDA deems safe for consumption. My suggestion is to stay away from any processed food. Especially fast food of any kind no matter how good it may look or taste! As for the diot trying to justify the existence of BTHQ, shame on you! You are the problem with this world! Your views are harmful to humanity, DAMN YOU!

I guess I should have checked my spelling before I posted this comment originally, so TBHQ is the molecule in question here not BTHQ as I stated earlier. Iâm just livid at the idiot touting the benefits of TBHQ as a natural occurring triglyceride in butter, THAT IS UTTERLY INCORRECT! So anyway here it is, I can accept a personâs point of view but, when misinformation is disseminated to the masses, I just can't let that slide. Let me clarify something about TBHQ, it is not a naturally occurring molecule when butter ferments, as one post proclaims, butyric acid or butanoic acid, however, is! Butyric acid is a fatty acid. The triglyceride of butyric acid makes up 3% to 4% of butter and when butter ferments, it releases an unpleasant odor. TBHQ is therefore a harmful chemical preservative along with BHA and BHT, which are just the tip of the iceberg of the preservatives the FDA deems safe for consumption. My suggestion is to stay away from any processed food. Especially fast food of any kind no matter how good it may look or taste! As for the idiot trying to justify the existence of TBHQ, shame on you! You are the problem with this world! Your views are harmful to humanity, DAMN YOU!

Fight Swine flu with chicken McNuggets ???

Odd what search engines generate.... I was looking for this flu inhibitor reference and found a wealth of anger about the BTHQ molecule.

Take a look at the paper

Structure of influenza hemagglutinin in complex
with an inhibitor of membrane fusion

17736â17741 PNAS November 18, 2008 vol. 105 no. 46

Maybe the M logo should add

"One nugget to be taken/day after a meal" ?

It can't hurt to stay away from the stuff. Obviously its not clear one way or the other.

Oh my god, what a clusterfuck of retards.
Dylan Farrel, you're a moron. Sure, those are the correct chemicals (almost) that you're dealing with, however, those are the specifications for pure TBHQ - which is present at ~ 33 ppm in the nuggets.
Every single impurity you've mentioned is around 1 in a 1000, giving a concentration of around 10 ppB in the nugget, except for toluene, which is at a conc of 25 ppm in the TBHQ, so there will be 0.8 ppb. That's technically known as 'fuck all'
Hydroquinone is a not a "type of benzene" benzene is benzene, moron, that's why it's called benzene. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hydroquinone. See those OHs? That means it's not benzene.
You need gloves and ventilation to handle any chemical, so that doesn't differentiate t-Butyl-p-Benzoquinone from any other chemical. Stop looking for scares there.
I hate to break it to you, but everything contains dangerous chemicals - even your water. Even water that government chemists call absolute pure contains 2 ppb hydroxonium ions, which are literally pure acid!
And Todd Wilson, learn to fucking read before you berate people, seriously.

God, this thread is depressing.

And people wonder why diseases like cancer nd the like are spreading like wildfire everywhere. These corporations dont care what preservatives they use even if its harmful as long as they are profitable, its so sick. And when u wanna eat fruit nd veg its sprayed with harmful pestisides and genetically modified and livestock are fed with rubbish nd genetically modified feeds all TO MAKE BIGGER PROFITS.When u want to buy organic its so expensive so theres no way out. I know its off the topic but i had to write this

I can see Sault's frustration with all the people here who claim to know chemistry but in actual fact learned it from a For Dummies book or worse. However, my most favourite part of the entire thread are the words "remove rust from one's sheriff's badge", posted a couple of years ago by TLC. Nearly laughed my badge off at that.

I like most of the others cannot have tbhq, bht,bha or MSG and it took me to get preggers to realize all of the effects. At this stage of my pregnancy all of it makes me very ill and i suffered from very bad morning sickness until i looked into to MSG side effects and realized they are all the same as being preggers. I now try my best to stay away from all of them but UWEIS is correct...this crap is in everything and organic foods/verggies/fruits are SOOO freaking expensive and i work at the health food store! So bottom line..if its only initials i.e bht,bha,msg,tbhq...stay far far away...they listed it that way for a reason and its best to make all your fav's, burgers, fries, nuggets and everything else from scratch in your own kitchen so that you know exactly was going into them. Love McD's but will never eat there again.

i just read that this chemical is in maruchan soup product?
so i googled it and found this post? interesting! i have concluded that i am going total organic, distilled water, fresh dary milk, eggs, meat with no poisons buy 1/2 or 1/4 beef, or buy a hole animal and take it to the butcher about 20 cents a pound?

why is 1/3 people dieing of cancer when 50 years ago it was 1/50? TBHQ? MSH? TRANS FAT? I AM NOT WAITING FOR THE 20 YEAR STUDY?


By SCIENCEOFFICER (not verified) on 15 Jul 2009 #permalink

You are right, you would have to eat A LOT of chicken nuggets to ingest the amount needed to cause harm. However, have you though about all the other foods that might have TBHQ in them? Or perhaps that you can build up these molecules in your system and they might takes days or weeks for your body to rid itself of these toxins?

Think about that...

I bing'ed TBHQ because I read that ingredient on the back of a popcorn box. Then I found this article, so what you need to look at is not that it is only in one thing, its in MANY things. Not only that chicken nugget so in one day if one eats many things that contains TBHQ they ARE getting a higher dose everyone needs to look at it from that view point as well!

All I know is that this additive cause horrible headaches for me. Any preservative will give me headaches. I found this one from eating a mini buterfinger candy bar and 20 minutes later started getting a bad headache.

I cant beleive some here are trying to tell us that this is good for us???

TBHQ is an aromatic. The fatty acid in butter is a polymer chain which we can readily metabolize. The reason TBHQ works is that aromatics are hard for microbes to metabolize. Similary, humans also have difficulties metabolizing aromatic rings meaning they have a long residence time in the body. Eventually they may get somewhere they shouldn't which is loosely why so many types of aromatics are unhealthy and/or carcinogenic.

I hope this simple "Glenn Beck type" description of the issue makes the problem with TBHQ easier to digest.

As an allergist thinking about immunology regularily ...

We have DNA repair mechanisms (used to be,three main ones - the genetic variablilty of them are not known)when there's a deficiency get like ataxia telangiectasia-get lymphoma and abnormal blood vessels.
LIver enzymes for conjugation, esterification,cytochrome pathway, and gall bladder for saponification.
Kidneys that excrete small charged compounds (I think + - if basment membrane is negatively charged,as the same ion is repelled, as long as it's intact) and polar compounds... The list goes on.

Between different lineages (Asian, African, Caucasian,Indian) there seem to be different porportions of some of these enzymes. It isn't surprising that some people are intolerant of some chemicals (alcohol intolerance is notorious in Indian and Asians) and others tolerate them fine. Food sensitivities to "natural foods" let alone prepared ones are very real.

That said, how can it be good to spend the bodies resources to metabolize these chemicals(some are inducible)? There is no data. Safety data is not required prior to adding a chemical to foods as long as there is a negative "AMES" test (basically if a single celled organism with minimal representation of our immune system - strain on DNA repair.

After the company puts in the request to the FDA, there is a three month comment period when you can (as the objector) submit data for and against the allowance of the substance to the foods. repair). I don't know if there are any other requirements although I KNOW its not much. It's true, over time there probably is an effect. Maybe, in most people it is small, but very likely individuals are there that can't tolerate it. While inducing enzymes to detoxify your food may not be that bad, its too bad that it is even necessary (other than to process fats, meats, fruits and vegies that are also loaded with natural chemical )and may create a "cost" that isn't easily identifiable.

What is also interesting is that people who eat at slightly above starvation tend to live significantly longer. And maybe why a couple of days of fasting really does let people feel better "clearer and cleaner" even though the medical establishment is poo pooing the benefits.

Make a quick quesidella (total protein some fat, and maybe a vegie product, and also lots of "chemicals") instead of going to McDonald's.

If we 'ate fresh and ate few' we would be a hell of a lot healthier, live longer and it likely wouldn't cost the same.

However, this leads me to my real pet peave. The MEDIA. FOr every fruit and vegi commercial dollar, there is approx $10 is spent on promoting sexy foods. Almost all these foods ARE prepared elsewhere thus requiring the additives for picture-perfect freshness. It is conditioning us to believe that food should look perfect and safe. Sorry,food is an agricultural produst. PPM of allowed insect parts, excrement, animal hair, is afact of life. Years ago, my wonderful professor Nelson Gantz said on the first day of microbiology "THE world is covered with a fine patina of shit". ONly at the time, as we giggled, he was referring to the rest of the world and not the US> Well guess what, now that we are a global economy, we get our food from all over the world. SO, for those who like fresh salads, I recommend a quick iodine rinse. Maybe peroxides will be effective too, but probably leave more after taste.

So I really think we ARE being slowly and (not so slowly) brainwashed (after techniques successfully used by the MOONIES and Chinese) as well of the sage insights of designated focus groups.

Unless you reduce your exposure to the fast foods (which probably has an addictive quality too as well as the commercial media , you will be conditioned - unless you have a receptive learning disorder that can still usually be overcome by rote learning.

And then, for many, there is the, "who cares, I'm going to die anyway". Well at least you've made a stand and I totally respect that. We are not going to get away from this reality. Personally, I do hope to die a quick death and not by some mean cancer but as long as I can make a choice not to support that outcome (by choosing my diet as mindfully as possible), I will feel better in my concience.

By Dr. Jennifer A… (not verified) on 24 Aug 2009 #permalink

ALL Natural (unprocessed and unmodified) Whole Foods! People in the past did this and they have lived (or are still living) to be over 100. Now-a-days people are victims of all kinds of health problems and dying too young mainly from what they consume and thought was 'safe' to consume.
Until we can fully prove that these substances ( hydrogenated, interesterified, tbhq, bha, bht, edta, artificial colors and flavors, and other additives, etc..) are safe and most importantly beneficial for humankind, we should just stay with 100% Natural Whole Foods.
The less processed (modified) and the less additives in our foods, the more safe you are from potential health risks.
Just make sure that meat is cooked thoroughly and fresh-produce is washed well, get adequate amounts of insoluble and soluble fibers, limit your sugars and sodium intake, and be cautious of any food allergies. Simply eat naturally in moderation.

"You are mostly a product of the surrounding environment: You are what you eat, you are what you consume."

Don't fall victim of mankind's blunders.

I found this site very helpful for anyone concerned about this particular preservative, and it's link to childhood behaviors. www.feingold.org

By Jennifer Ivey (not verified) on 04 Sep 2009 #permalink

My wife and I eat no "processed-take-out" foods, for reasons of taste and health (read processing and additives). Imagine my surprise when I bought Pure Indian Mustard Oil (I cook alot of Indian food from scratch) and saw that it contains TBHQ - after I brought it home! I use mustard oil for only a few dishes, so I guess my only hope is that all the plants and spices that go into our food will counteract the debatable damage that this preservative might do. It is also packaged in a #1 plastic container - is this good, bad or unknown? I am not to the point where I can survive on only the foods I pick or press myself (our long winter does not allow for that). Has anybody else run into these kinds of issues with Indian cooking? What else do I need to watch out for or be aware of?

companies should be more aware of how they are effecting our health.

TBHQ is also listed for McDonalds french fries. I wonder how much, because I know there are ppl out there that eat McDs everyday. I had been limited my consumption to once everyother month, but maybe i'll make that never again.

By urwhatueat (not verified) on 05 Oct 2009 #permalink

I like to use this analogy to anyone who says "It's only in microscopic amounts": "Here you go sweetie, here's a little crack. It's only a little, so don't worry about it, you'll be fine." If something is even potentially harmful to ANY segment of the population, why are we even having adiscussion about its usage? Can anyone who is saying it's no big deal provide me with any beneficial effects any of these substances produce? How did our parents and grandparents ever survive without this stuff? (dripping sarcasm)

This is in response to the posting by Sault. With your mentality, (if you want to call it that),I have a proposition for you....I will eat a couple of cobs of corn. The next day I will remove the kernels from the feces and you can eat them. O.K.? Now remember YOUR MENTALITY! You say by removing BITS from, let's say, butane, then it is safe to consume, right? Then how about sending me your address and I will send you some corn Kernels to eat. I'm waiting. E-mail me for my address.Actually,I do not need to post my e-mail address because I know you would not eat the fucking corn kernel because if it comes from shit, it is shit. There is definitely something wrong with the bastardization of our foodstuffs. This is coming from someone who has been chemically poisoned. I KNOW it is a son-of-a-bitch to go through and only wish it upon those with your mentality.I wish you and all other chemical 'PUSHERS' would go die somewhere.

Again to Sault: You could cut the corn kernel in half! How about a quarter? How about one thirtysecond, a sixtyfourth?
Of course you still wouldn't eat the corn kernel from my shit, because it CAME from shit. As far as I am concerned, none of these bloody preservatives, colourings, etc. have any place in our food. Period.

My familly and I have gradually eliminated all non-food processed "foods" and now avoid all chain restaurants. The result has been that we no longer catch viruses and one of us has cured ulcerative colitis (after having it for 20 years).

The poster who mentioned the potential cumulative effects of additives in our food, cleaning, personal care, etc. products was right on.

Anyone who supports putting crap into food is either stupid or works for the chemical companies.

Don't worry about all the chemicals and pollutants. They just lead to quicker evolutionary mutation and I am finding this third hand so very useful.

I have a "cast iron" stomach. I like spicy foods and I can eat anything except, okra and fish eyeballs. Yuk! to the taste of okra. I doubt I'll ever know what fish eyeballs taste like. ( Personally I put them in the same catergory )

I found some wheat crackers I like to munch on while I work at the computer. I have been eatihg them at times for some months. I have been getting a headache at the base of my skull in the back, and a very uncomfortable "sic" feeling. Couriously I earlier I read the ingredients and did a search for TBHQ, a preservative. I'm wanting to know if anyone is having similar symptoms? Thanks.

One thing I'm sure of - It is not the okra!

Seriously, I intend to get down to the bottom of it and would appreciate related info. My regards to the one with the child having extreme reactions.

I too have just found out that I am allergic to TBHQ too. Red Robin and Stanfords Restaurants both contain TBHQ in their cooking oil. Also Cheez-it Party mix and some Kelloggs crackers contain this ingredient too!! If you are allergic you might want to think about carrying Benedril on you!

No offense SusanLynne (and the others citing "dose" as the ONLY criteria), but comparing water - a natural substance absolutely essential to life - to TBHQ - a manmade carcinogenic preservative - simply by way of 'quantity' is dumb-logic at it's finest . . sure, it is true that if one drinks way too much water all at one time, it can be harmful or even fatal, yet drinking up to a gallon of water spread throughout the day in smaller quantities per dose is one of THE most healthy things you can do, eliminating toxins and keeping your body hydrated for starters. To say this is not true for TBHQ is an understatement at the very least.

Throughout history, thousands have died from going merely DAYS without water, but you simply will not find even a single person who has EVER died from going days, weeks, months or even YEARS w/o TBHQ . . OR MSG, BHA, BHT, etc. found in today's processed foods, made by giant corporations who ONLY care about profit; to hell with who dies, gets cancer, diabetes, heart disease, or what have you . . as long as they get that "extra nickel's profit." And our gov't is literally OWNED by these giant corporations nowadays, so certainly don't expect our gov't to look out for us. It's "Gov't BY the corporations, FOR the corporations!" Time to wake up and smell the corruption . .

By BeyondTheBull (not verified) on 29 Dec 2009 #permalink

Questions for anybody who studied chemistry and biology. Does TBHQ stays in the body or is it being flushed out completely? If say only one molecule stays in the body, can it affect the cell and starts becoming cancerous or can our immune system battle this one molecule and prevent it from turning into a cancerous cell? Since almost all commercial grade cooking oil have TBHQ on it, and assuming each day, we get one molecule of it left in our body each day, how many molecules will it take for it to start turning a healthy cell to a cancerous one?

The two most dangerous preservatives in our diets are salt and sugar.

FWIW: Look up BHT and you'll find there are people that take large doses every day to fight viruses and prevent aging.

By obi1kanobe (not verified) on 26 Jan 2010 #permalink

Say, I have an idea. Let's all buy a couple of cook books and prepare some of our own foods for ourselves, made from real food sources, grown and produced in very natural and authentic ways, as well as save some $ in the process?! People can study, argue and debate, listen to others all day long, if they choose to. Let's think for ourselves, use "common sense," hopefully of which, we all have a little of, and quit being so lazy and or too BUSY, to take care of ourselves. We know scientificaly how our bodies respond to excersize, natural foods, including fruits and veggies, along with whole grains and less unhealthy fats, more healthy fats, less sugar, as well as good sleeping habits. I do not have a doctorate in medical science or nutrition, just an understanding of the basics and a will to follow my own common sense, as well as do a little bit of work in this area, while living in this fast paced, "too busy to do the basics" american society that I now live in. In the end, I guess it's all based on what we choose.

Guys, TBHQ is a preservative, in the amounts used it is nearly harmless, the thing is, it is replacing something that isn't nearly as harmless, that being partially and fully hydrogenated vegetable oils. Hydrogenated oils alone are probably one of the biggest reasons so many americans are fat, if you go to a grocery store, try picking up ten items at random and having one not contain hydrogenated oils, (produce section excluded) they are also the biggest cause of heart disease, and pretty much EVERY snack food has them to some degree (though I've noticed many are switching to TBHQ or High Oleic oils as an alternative.) if you can find a single little debbie snack cake that doesn't have partially hydrogenated soybean and/or cottonseed oil, buy a lottery ticket.

By Wow, this is a… (not verified) on 20 Mar 2010 #permalink

Just buy more organic food and try to avoid artificial chemicals like food preservatives and others. The simple principle supply and demand works, if you donât buy the unhealthy foods with many artificial chemicals and GMOâs anymore the industries will notice that and adapt accordingly by producing more organic products.

By Ande Bert (not verified) on 09 Apr 2010 #permalink

i am curious about anyones educated thoughts on tbhq in soybean/"vegetable" oils used for frying. im a chef, and thus not a scientist, it seems like general consesus is its fairly benign, but are these really worth any risk? my usual brand of oil doesnt list it, but i got this shit as a replacement. i doubt ill get it again.

Any synthesized preservative is potentially harmful. The truth is there is too little evidence to prove many of the above statements one way or another. There is evidence to suggest that too much of anything is bad, but synthesized food additives should be avoided in general if one has learned anything from the history of problems with food and drugs in this country.
The "Food and Drug" Administration? Why should the same entity be in control of both food and drug? Does that seem like a conflict of interest to anyone else?
So, let's say that your chicken nugget gives you a headache at some point within 3 days following ingestion, what do you do for the headache? Take a Tylenol, a perfectly harmless Tylenol.
Now let's say I am a huge corporation that has interest in selling OTC medicine for some disease, I have to get FDA approval, which means lots of rigorous testing before testing on humans for safety and more testing and finally everyone can buy it, but it will only be sold if people have symptoms regularly and these symptoms are helped by the medicine, SO. . . before I released this new drug I had already gotten approval from the FDA for this new preservative that everyone (food manufacturers) will put in the food they produce because it is nearly free! Why would I, a huge business just give away this preservative that works wonderfully to "preserve freshness?" Simple. . . It gives you a headache when you eat it, a headache that My drug can eliminate for 8 hours or so. Yep, FDA, food and drugs, everything you need to corner the market of disease and treatment.
Follow these steps to rid yourself of this cycle:
1. Eat organic food that is grown locally whenever possible. Local farmers markets are great! Be sure to ask the growers if the food is organically grown.
2. Shop more often! Yep, if you're shopping less frequently than once a week, most of your food has preservatives or isn't organic.
3. Less packaging! Not just to reduce waste, but because anything that has extensive packaging for long shelf life has probably been treated with something the FDA approved for you to eat or is packaged in something the FDA approved as food packaging.
4. When eating out, stay away from all fast food and try to find restaurants that source local organic growers and organic foods in general. You will usually pay a little more at the restaurant, but you will pay far less in headaches, fatigue, nausea, health care and loss of the enjoyment of life in general.

Eat better, live happier.

May all be happy.

By For Steve (not verified) on 06 May 2010 #permalink

Just as far as TBHQ goes, it's said that you would have to ingest 5 grams of it, but per some studying on the subject, it would appear that the LD50 of TBHQ is 700mg/kg, at least, when orally administered to rats. Granted, they are rats, but still, even at that logic, if you were to apply it to a human, which i would put at about 80 KG, would be 80*700 mg, or 56,000 mg. That's about 56 g. Good luck eating that much!

Just shop at Trader Joe's, there food is preservative and chemical free. No more reading labels, F that nonsense!!!

By The Monarch (not verified) on 14 Jul 2010 #permalink

Two years ago I started breaking out into hives after eating fried foods (fried calamari, tortilla chips, french fries) from certain restaurants. But the same foods from other restaurants did not cause a problem. Finally, I asked the manager at one restaurant what kind of oil they used to fry their food. He gave me the ingredient list from the label on the oil. "Soybean oil with TBHQ..." was listed. When I looked up TBHQ on the Internet, hives was a common reaction to ingesting it. Now I have to be very careful about where I eat. Fast food is definitely out.

Many people think "Eating just a tiny bit probably won't hurt me (my children, etc)."
But there's so much pollution in the air and our food, why take the risk of having it become a lot over time? What if saying no to McNuggets or Cheez-It just this once and having something almost as good is just enough to keep you from the tipping point towards cancer or some other disease (or disorder or pain or lack of energy) with no known cause?
Just saying "Everything's bad for you," is giving up.
It took time to learn how to do it, but I eat really good food on $12,000 a year income, so it's possible. Dry organic beans & rice? Organic sweet potato? Eggs (& chicken meat) from the lady across town?

By Anonymous (not verified) on 06 Aug 2010 #permalink

I have recently noticed signs of allergic reactions to products containing TBHQ and more recently BHT. The first time I noticed I ate a recess cup which caused my lip to swell (which I had lip swelling for years!) but then this past week I ate Ramon noodles and Wheat Thins (containing TBHQ and BHT) and found that I was having an allergic reaction to both of those. I also used to experience severe migraines and occasionally still do. I am definitely becoming more aware of this reaction to the preservatives in the foods. I am hoping that if there is a list out there containing foods with TBHQ, BHT, and BHA or should just sticking to organic be the easiest route? I really dislike that this has ruined food for me, but I feel a lot better knowing that I am not the only one.

is tbhq terated oil used for raw eating material ? is it safe?

By sneha singh (not verified) on 17 Aug 2010 #permalink

Sault says "You need gloves and ventilation to handle any chemical". Bullshit. I am a lab tech and I just measured out Polyvinyl acetate and borax which I diluted with H2O without gloves or ventilation. I moved some 250cc bottles of dilute hydrochloric acid (0.5M, 1M, 1.5M and 2M) with my ungloved hands from racking to trolley. I then went to the shops where I put anionic surfactants and sodium hydrogen carbonate in my trolley and then my shopping bag, next to my food. I wasn't wearing gloves. I came home and sprinkled sodium chloride and dilute acetic acid on my deep fried batons of potato before ingesting, put my plate and a dishwasher tablet in the dishwasher then painted my fingernails.

Wow, posts full of pure, unadulterated ignorance to how chemicals work in the body. And then you have hypersensitive people saying to stay away from the stuff. Guess we should stay away from peanuts too, as they also hurt hypersensitive people *rolleyes*
TBHQ, like many other preservatives, are not harmful AT ALL until you hit a certain level (unless you are allergic). That means you are absolutely and perfectly healthy until you pass a line. It doesn't "add up". It's "you have had to much, now you are sick." And the amount to reach that threshold is an ungodly amount of food.
So, if you are suffering maladies from the consumption of TBHQ...
A. You are allergic. So you are not an ordinary person, don't say not to eat something because your mast cells are silly.
B. You are eating ungodly amounts of food and by proxy preservatives, enough to start you on the path to breaking the world record for heaviest person, at which point you will have more than preservatives to worry about.
or C. You are a hypochondriac who likes to blame every instance of feeling "unwell" on these horrible preservatives, when in reality it could be a number of things. (*cough* food poisoning *cough*)
Sorry for being sarcastic but you people need to wake up. It is fine to eat organic and to cut out crap you don't need, but the fact of the matter is that this stuff is not dangerous to normal, healthy people in the doses people could ever get them at. Then again, as US citizens we love to live in fear, so now that the terrorists aren't as much of a threat, you people need something else to fear.
Hell, if you want something to be scared of, be scared of how your food is handled before you buy it, now THAT is something to be afraid of, and a good reason to eat organic, not this uneducated ignorant fear of preservatives. Hopefully I will reach someone with this comment and spur them to look up reputable resources.

Oh, and if you have the time, look up "Monsanto", it is an -literally- evil company which needs to be taken down. Not because they genetically modify corn, but because they take absolutely no precautions with the GM corn and treat farmers like pawns in chess. I'm trying to get the word out. If you want to do good in your lifetime, help take these guy down before lead us into a nightmare future.

By Joseph M. Stewart (not verified) on 27 Sep 2010 #permalink

did you know this same preservative,tbhq, is in Reeses peanut butter cups?

By karen gauze (not verified) on 30 Nov 2010 #permalink

Everyone, problems are not to be solved by anger, curse words,or yelling nonsense facts. TBHQ is not the only bad thing out there. JUST SOME TIPS:
do not buy anything with partially or Just Plain Hydrogenated oil.
Do not eat anything with artificial flavors or coloring
Sucrose, Dextrose, Corn Syrup, are other names for sugar. Don't be fooled!

Also, Just plain eating healthy is a solution, not a "diet" or "slimming pill' OR lAP BAND. As for diets, that makes no sense why you shoud stuff yourself overweight and then stave yourself or eat E.Coli salad and repeat the Process. How about a healthy life style, not a diet.

By caresabout the would (not verified) on 16 Jan 2011 #permalink

After reading this I've concluded that bottom line is TBHQ is typically found in products that contain tons of other things that aren't good for you either. Will tbhq kill you? No. Will ingesting tbhq along with thousands of other chemicals on a daily basis that our environment contains kill you? Who knows! I'm 26 though and my hair is turning grey, my back hurts all of the time, and I feel unwell constantly. How do you feel? Something is not right, that I do know. Aside from the ideas that body burden contributes to illness / cancer my new favorite theory is that viruses like herpes symplex, cytomegalovirus, and HPV cause most cancers or cause a process that causes cancer.

Either way instead of worrying about 1 chemical out of thousands that may or may not contribute to illness... Try to keep your immune system healthy.

As a biochemist turned MD, I find most of the comments on here were derived from sheer ignorance. You're in more danger driving to work than you are eating the occasional Oreo, Cheese-It, McDonald's McNugget, etc...

How about all the witless commenters instead write letters to the DoT to ban personal vehicle usage... lol