Volume 93 Issue 8 | p. 6 | News of The Week
Issue Date: February 23, 2015 | Web Date: February 19, 2015

General Mills To Remove Antioxidant BHT From Its Cereals

Blogger known as Food Babe strikes again
Department: Business
Keywords: food ingredients, food additives, antioxidants

In the wake of a campaign by the controversial blogger Vani Hari, who goes by the name Food Babe, General Mills says it is removing the antioxidant butylated hydroxytoluene (BHT) from its cereals.

Cinnamon Toast Crunch will no longer contain BHT.
Credit: Shutterstock
Cinnamon Toast Crunch will no longer contain BHT.
Credit: Shutterstock

The action is the latest to be trumpeted by Hari, who is not a scientist but whose blogging about food additives has the ability to make big companies jump. Last year the Subway sandwich chain removed a dough conditioner, azodicarbonamide, from its breads after similar haranguing by Hari.

Many of America’s favorite cereal brands contain a dash of BHT, a synthetic antioxidant that prevents vegetable oils from going rancid. BHT may be added directly to cereal, though it is commonly added to the plastic or wax paper liner of the packaging. From there, it migrates into food.

“BHT is an FDA-approved food ingredient, but we’re already well down the path of removing it from our cereals. This change is not for safety reasons but because we think consumers will embrace it,” General Mills says. The company claims the move has been under way for more than a year and was not motivated by the petition that Hari launched on Feb 5. Hari also has called on Kellogg’s to remove BHT.

There is no scientific evidence that BHT is harmful in the amounts used in packaged food. Indeed, in small amounts, it may have anticancer effects similar to those provided by naturally occurring antioxidants. But studies of larger doses have shown mixed results. In some mouse and rat studies, BHT appeared to trigger cancer in the forestomach, an organ that humans don’t have.

BHT is approved for use in both the U.S. and Europe, but Hari points out that cereals marketed in Europe by General Mills and Kellogg’s do not contain the additive. Already, General Mills says, the Cheerios, Trix, Kix, and Lucky Charms it sells in the U.S. contain no BHT. Cheerios products, for example, rely on vitamin E, also called mixed tocopherols, to keep them fresh. Other label-friendly antioxidants available to cereal companies include vitamins A and C and extracts of rosemary and thyme.

Chemical & Engineering News
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Robert Butnrock  (March 13, 2015 3:45 PM)
The Food Babe's attacks on chemicals she knows nothing about make her the chief preacher of chemophobia. Such baseless activism is exclusively self-promotional and is devoid of anything substantive. Much of her following is probably due to sex appeal. Her propaganda should be actively resisted and discounted.
Gail Lowe  (August 5, 2015 6:02 PM)
Are you a scientist or a person who works with food additives?
Dave Wilson  (March 4, 2016 1:28 PM)
I'm curious how much research you did on BHT before you made that rash comment and attack on the activist. From my reading, the research against it is rather compelling.
Alain Roy  (March 20, 2015 6:40 PM)
Perhaps we can now address Sodium aluminum phosphate in rising crust pizzas. From Nestles to Pillsbury they all claim that it's the only chemical agent known to enable the dough to rise. To my knowledge McCains introduced in 2013 a new sodium aluminum phosphate free rising crust pizzas. Best regards. P.s. Some turnovers and other rising dough pasteries incorporate this ingredient.
Name  (June 11, 2015 4:09 AM)
More than 90% of our grains and cereals including rice (UK and abroad) are subject to a pre-harvest spraying of roundup herbicide - a new but insane practice started in 2003. This has massively increased residue levels to 100 PPM and more, of this noxious substance in our bread and cereal. Research has clearly shown that roundup/glyphosate is responsible for cancers, endocrine disruption and cardiac arrythmia. The american government which is in the pocket of the makers of glyphosate last year massively increased the permitted residue levels in farm produce anywhere from 2 times to 25 times depending on the food stuff. Now they want to force this noxious waste and their gmo waste on europe by way of TTIP that is, if you are not already eating this garbage and you easily could be. Are you one of the million+ people who in the UK have atrial fibrillation? Bread or cereal is very possibly the cause.
Mickey  (August 25, 2015 1:27 PM)
I agree with you 100%
trwerw  (August 14, 2015 4:17 PM)
It's good to be concerned about nutrition. But it's also good to know how real science works. This self-important nazi-bloggers do no good. And no, I don't work for any food company.
Mickey  (August 25, 2015 1:22 PM)
I agree with the BHT being removed, probably many othe thingss should be removed as well. Is this also in Canada? I would like to know why all cereals and all foods nearly have so much sugar in them. It is usually second on the list showing the content is very high in sugar' It is not only in cereal, but all foods nearly.
Annalissa  (January 19, 2016 1:08 PM)
So, a woman who has no background in food, nutrition, chemistry, etc. and calls herself "Food Babe" is your guiding source of proper nutrition and safe eating? Seriously? Why are you believing someone that has no idea what she's talking about? Do you not read any of the disclaimers that clearly state that she (and other Bloggers) are only stating their opinion, and that their conclusions aren't based on any type of actual science, that everything they write it the way they put things together.

Reminds me of all the people that believe that margarine is plastic because of a one molecule difference. Or the ones that swear up and down if you put hydrogen in something you're gonna die. Guess what sweetie....water is hydrogen and oxygen. Better stop drinking water, it's hydrogenated! H2 treated with Oxygen.

Before passing judgement and spreading misinformation take a few general science classes and some basic chemistry classes!
Spiz  (February 3, 2016 3:41 PM)
Annalissa You're ridiculous. It's not the hydrogen that is bad, it's the by product. Have you missed out on the fact of how dangerous trans fats are for us!! Hydrogen is a NATURAL part of water. You scientists think you can play God with our food and in effect our bodies and health!! I think you are the one who needs to do some research. Or at least be more open minded.
Jenny Rose  (April 20, 2016 10:28 AM)
Thank you! You stated it straight up!
Dave Wilson  (March 4, 2016 1:58 PM)
As with the other critique given I have to state my concern is that you haven't put any facts out to support your argument.

There is rather compelling evidence against BHT as well as that it isn't harmful. A valid concern may be that science can be biased based upon who is doing the research. I would have preferred for you to site resources that help support your thoughts that BHT is fine to consume. It is always good to have healthy debates about issues.

I will express a couple of my opinions related to your comment:

I agree with you that it is our responsibility as consumers to fact check and look at what we are eating. Although I don't believe a basic chemistry class is what you need but rather a health and nutrition class. I think you will find that wanting to be responsible for what goes into one's body is the very root of why so many are upset that the FDA seems to side with big business rather than individual rights to have food labeled.

My opinion of your argument is that it is weak. Here's why:

One, you didn't speak to your credentials or to your own personal research (It's hard to take you seriously about taking a basic class when we don't know if you've ever taken a basic class yourself.)

Two, despite your rather passionate feelings about the "Food Babe" expressing her opinion despite her clearly telling us that is all they are, you are in fact doing the very same thing you are criticizing.

Here's my critique: The difference between "Food Babe" and you is that you appear to be disguising yourself as an expert on the topic thus making your "opinion" superior to hers. Without those credentials I mentioned earlier, I have to believe you just didn't like her opinion and in fact you don't have any more research to support that opinion than she did to support hers.
Mike  (March 9, 2016 6:12 PM)
3 years ago I started to not feel well (daily) and thought maybe I now have a food allergy at 35 years old. Every time I did not feel well, I had pain in my digestive tract. I went to four doctors and they never could find what was causing me to feel bad. So I started a food journal and recorded what I was eating. After a month of notating what foods I was eating , I noticed a pattern the foods I ate contained BHT or TBHQ. I do believe a small amount will not cause immediate reaction , but my diet at the time had many foods with BHT/TBHQ. I may be more sensitive than others, but be aware that this used to protect oils from going bad. This is not something we should be eating... My advice: When you shop at the grocery store only shop the outside perimeter (Veggies, Fruits, Meats, and Breads) and only go down the baking aisle for spices, flour, etc. The other aisles have food additives in most products, avoid these types of food. Today, I am healthy and feel great. I only changed what I was eating and it made me feel good again :)
Melvin Pratt  (May 7, 2016 2:29 PM)
I just finished a box of Post Shredded Wheat and the entire backside of the box is devoted to claims about their ingedient list being so good that they have nothing to hide because it's 100% whole grain wheat. However the actual ingredient list says (in very, very small print) that BHT is added to the packaging "to preserve the natural wheat flavor." Googling BHT is how I got to these comments. It is like microwave popcorn --they don't put Teflon in the corn, they just coat the inside of the bags with it, but it gets into the food anyway. I'm wondering how long ago was BHT approved by FDA and how rigorous was the safety testing? I'm old enough to remember when they couldn't pretend that margarine was butter, it came in a pure white block with a little cellophane bag of yellow dye, you had to mix it yourself if you wanted it to look like butter. Pure food activists like the Food Babe, serve the public. We cant trust FDA to protect our food. It took years of public activism to force the food industry to get rid of trans fats, and only after the battle had been won did the FDA finally decide that it wasnt good for us.
Jeff  (May 22, 2016 9:25 AM)

A link to PubMed (NIH) on the topic. Mostly cosmetic commentary, but provides a short background on studies/results.
sharon anderson  (May 22, 2016 4:40 PM)
I am glad to know that the manufacturers of cereal have plans to remove BHT from their cereals. I have not bought cereal for 15 years due to when the cereal companies began putting BHT in their cereals. They went all those years without it being in there, so why was it necessary to suddenly start adding it ? There are many preservatives that are healthier that could be used instead. Vitamin C is just one option. And, when companies eliminate certain ingredients from the same product, due to the laws of manufacturing in other countries, why do they feel the need to add it in the U.S.A just because it is allowed ? In response to all the criticism towards the blogger "Food Babe", I am not a scientist or expert of any sorts either but, I can read and do research. Take note, if the cereal manufacturers didn't believe that "Food Babe" was right on target, they would not change a thing. Wealthy companies do not jump for "no reason". Wise up people, these companies out there do not do what is best for us. They do what is best for their wallets.
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