Foodfacts.com wants to help you learn about what controversial food additives are being put into your foods.TBHQ is the acronym used to describe tertiary butylhydroquinone, which is an antioxidant that comes from petroleum and is related to butane. It is often used as a preservative, applied either to the carton of fast food items or sprayed directly onto them, as well as in various other prepackaged food items.
TBHQ reduces oxidative deterioration in foods it is applied to, delaying the onset of rancidness. It is particularly effective in reducing the deterioration of fats and oils and aids in reducing nutritional loss over time and extending storage life.
As a food additive, the FDA allows TBHQ to make up no more than 0.02 percent of the total oils in a food. Consuming up to a gram of TBHQ can cause variable toxicity, and up to 5 grams can be fatal. For perspective, it would take 312.5 McDonald’s chicken nuggets (if they contain a full 0.02% of TBHQ) to consume a single gram.
Consuming high doses of TBHQ (between 1 and 4 grams, approximately) can lead to a variety of negative symptoms, including nausea, vomiting, tinnitus (ringing in the ears), delirium and collapse. But the sheer amount of food consumption necessary to be afflicted by TBHQ toxicity generally makes these symptoms extremely rare.
In toxicity studies, long-term, high-dose TBHQ administration in lab animals showed a tendency for them to develop cancerous precursors in the stomach, as well as causing DNA damage. But unlike other antioxidant additives, it did not cause lung lesions in laboratory animals.
TBHQ in Children
There has been some anecdotal evidence that TBHQ can cause anxiety, restlessness, and aggravation of ADHD symptoms, although there have been no clinical studies that show any link between food additives and behavioral disorders in children.