We all know that processed foods are probably not the best for us, and that’s largely due to the preservatives that keep them stable. But a new study from the Environmental Working Group (EWG) found that a particular preservative could be damaging your immune system. And the bad news is that the preservative in question is found in nearly 1,250 beloved snacks, from Cheez-Its to Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups and Coffemate. To see what preservative to look for in the ingredient list of your favorite food, read on, and for information on another product to watch out for, see If You Have This Bottled Water At Home, Stop Drinking It Now, FDA Says.
The new study, published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, used data from the Environmental Protection Agency Toxicity Predictor (ToxCast) to evaluate the effects of the preservative tert-butylhydroquinone (TBHQ).
TBHQ, used to increase the shelf life of a product, is common in processed foods, including Pop-Tarts, Rice Krispies Treats, Cheez-Its, Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups, Nissin Top Ramen Noodle Soup, Coffemate Liquid Creamer, and Dove Heart Chocolates, according to the researchers.
They specifically set out to document the influence of TBHQ on immune functions, including T cells, B cells, and NK cells, which can, in turn, affect your immune response.
To make sure you don’t have another potentially dangerous product in your pantry, check out If You Have This Quaker Oats Product At Home, Get Rid Of It Now, Says FDA
The study authors noted that these findings are of particular concern at a time when we are relying on our immune responses as we continue to fight the COVID pandemic.
“The pandemic has focused public and scientific attention on environmental factors that can affect the immune system,” said the lead author. Olga naidenko, PhD, EWG vice president for scientific research, said in the statement. “Before the pandemic, chemicals that can damage the immune system’s defenses against infection or cancer did not receive enough attention from public health agencies.”
To see which medicine can help you when it comes to COVID, check out This Over-the-Counter Medicine May Keep You Safer Against COVID, According To A New Study.
This study is not the first to question TBHQ. An April 2019 study from Michigan State University found that the preservative could influence how flu vaccines work, which is particularly timely as millions of Americans receive the COVID vaccine.
And another Michigan State University study from July 2016 found that TBHQ could also be linked to an increase in food allergies.
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To avoid this potentially harmful preservative, Healthline suggests that you read labels carefully and omit anything that includes TBHQ, tertiary butylhydroquinone, or butylated hydroxyanisole from your ingredient list. It’s worth noting that sometimes while the additive is not present in food, it could be used on packaging, in which case it could migrate into your food.
“TBHQ, like many questionable food preservatives, is found in processed foods intended to withstand a long shelf life,” Healthline said. “Avoiding these packaged foods and opting for fresh ingredients is a sure way to limit them in your diet.”
To make sure you don’t eat another potentially dangerous treat, check out If You Have This Snack At Home, Ditch It Now, The FDA Says.