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.

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Cinnamon Toast Crunch will no longer contain BHT.
Credit: Shutterstock
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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
ISSN 0009-2347
Copyright © American Chemical Society
Comments
Robert Butnrock (Fri Mar 13 15:45:01 EDT 2015)
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 (Wed Aug 05 18:02:44 EDT 2015)
Are you a scientist or a person who works with food additives?
Dave Wilson (Fri Mar 04 13:28:17 EST 2016)
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.
Mark (Wed Sep 28 23:01:03 EDT 2016)
Dude, its not going to hurt us and I think this world has come to a selective diet and we are too particular about what is used in our food. If you don't like it, just don't eat it. Leave the people who want to eat it, eat it, after all, that is freedom. And ad for Kelloggs, its up to them ultimately what they want to do with their business in removing BHT. So as for the activist, good for him that's his freedom, but at the same time, he isn't me and I don't think 1 person's voice should be able to overpower people who don't care about the BHT. Its just an additive to preserve freshness.I've done enough research on BHT to know I'm not scared of it.
Dean (Sat Nov 26 19:25:01 EST 2016)
The problem with these food additives is that they have the potential to cause severe health problems as we are now finding out that high fructose corn syrup is directly linked to childhood obesity and type diabetes yet these food companies that use these ingredients do so because the FDA relies on "good faith" data that is provided by the same company that is trying to promote it's consumption using non-scientific means at best to derive their findings and are only bound by ever increasing their stock value and shareholder dividends without any regard to the consumer other than price reduction through the use of less expensive food additives, fillers and flavorings that have little to no food value as in sodium salts, less valuable sugar by products and cheap fats of all kinds that can be extremely acidic or toxic at higher levels than the FDA recommends simply by its prevalence in many foods as your "safe" BHA is now being found to be by ongoing research that is not done by food wizards who will do whatever it takes to sell their products to the public very much like the pesticide DDT was pushed as being good for the environment or the pharmaceutical company that promoted THALIDOMIDE to pregnant women which caused horrendous birth defects. How about they put into your kids breakfast cereal even though the FDA said it was "safe" back then.You might think twice when a Government agency is claiming something is safe to ingest when they accept studies at face value from the manufacturer because they know they can get away with it. The thing to remember here is just who's best interest are they working for YOU or PROFIT MARGIN
I will give you a little hint,IT'S NOT YOU PAL.
Tara (Sat Jun 18 20:31:37 EDT 2016)
"chemophobia"? Wouldn't that be a fear of chemotherapy? Because I'll tell you, as a cancer patient that has endured brain surgery, chemotherapy and radiation therapy to combat a malignant brain tumour, while I don't have a fear of chemotherapy, I do have a fear of ingesting carcinogenic foods and chemicals. Feel free to read this article on Carcinogenicity and modification of the carcinogenic response by BHA, BHT, and other antioxidants. It is available online at the US National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/3899519
CroSel (Wed Aug 31 20:23:47 EDT 2016)
Thank you Tara for your well supported comment. It's enlightening to know that BHT causes cancer in Hamsters. Bare in mind, studies such as: Will BHT cause cancer in human beings most likely is not condoned due to ethical and legal reasons of experimenting on humans. Therefore, I would not take this research lightly and I think it's fair to extrapolate it to human beings since we're organisms as well.
Isabella Kerr (Fri Sep 16 14:35:50 EDT 2016)
I agree with your comment that it can cause a cancer/bht/. I have been shocked with some opinions. I guess some people do not do a research. I am going to switch to other low sugar brands. Simply I do not like sweet food. Unfortunately I have had a skin cancer that showed that I am prone to have a cancer. I am sorry I did not do my research earlier. I have been eating this cereal for a long time.
Alain Roy (Fri Mar 20 18:40:14 EDT 2015)
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 (Thu Jun 11 04:09:37 EDT 2015)
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 (Tue Aug 25 13:27:14 EDT 2015)
I agree with you 100%
trwerw (Fri Aug 14 16:17:23 EDT 2015)
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 (Tue Aug 25 13:22:43 EDT 2015)
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 (Tue Jan 19 13:08:17 EST 2016)
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 (Wed Feb 03 15:41:06 EST 2016)
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 (Wed Apr 20 10:28:21 EDT 2016)
Thank you! You stated it straight up!
Dave Wilson (Fri Mar 04 13:58:45 EST 2016)
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 (Wed Mar 09 18:12:18 EST 2016)
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 (Sat May 07 14:29:49 EDT 2016)
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 (Sun May 22 09:25:06 EDT 2016)
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12396675

A link to PubMed (NIH) on the topic. Mostly cosmetic commentary, but provides a short background on studies/results.
sharon anderson (Sun May 22 16:40:13 EDT 2016)
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.
Name (Mon Jun 13 21:15:26 EDT 2016)
I REALLY wish Kellogg's would jump on board with removing BHT! I used to love their cereals years ago when, according to a commenter above, they did not use this additive (can anyone confirm?). I would really love some Rice Krispies, but I do NOT need to consume BHT along with it. Please remove the BHT, we don't need it!!!
Jotham Bessey (Fri Oct 21 21:00:44 EDT 2016)
There is an additive in processed foods (not all processed foods, but in most cereals) that makes me sick. I mean really sick. Unable to move pain coupled with bad diarrhea, itching joints, headaches... I found BHT is a common thread in those foods. I am currently researching on how to isolate BHT effects on my body.
ellen kucera (Sun Oct 23 11:51:24 EDT 2016)
What about trisodium phosphate? I see absolutely NO reason for this to be in food. It is a paint peeling and wall cleansing chemical product that you can get at the hardware store. ABSURD!!! America needs to get pro active for our kids and look at ingredients very closely. There are cures for cancer: DONT INGEST SUBSTANCES THAT CAUSE IT!! Sheesh!
Jamie (Sun Nov 27 13:13:04 EST 2016)
But here we are, a year and a half later, and BHT is still in their cereals. What happened??
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