2,6-Di-tert-butyl-4-methylphenol, or Butylated hydroxytoluene, or BHT, is a substance, the sheer pronunciation of whose full chemical name heralds toxigenicity and carcinogenicity for self-proclaimed food gurus! Little wonder it ended up on Food Babe’s list of chemicals to be eliminated from cereals. Under pressure from her readers, Food Babe now includes “references” to her posts.
How much cereal?
The first reference of her BHT fear-mongering page is a link to Environmental Working Group (EWG), who blog on mind and guardian angels, and are thankful to Deepak Chopra for sharing their “Shoppers Guide to Pesticides” on The Huffington Post. All this should be sufficient to expose the pseudo-scientific status of EWG. On the linked page, EWG is Concern(ed) about BHT because of The European Food Safety Authority’s report that this substance can cause birth weight effects in animals. The Source of this Concern is Scientific Opinion on the re-evaluation of BHT as a food additive (EFSA Journal 10(3), 2588). EWG is well aware of the fact that the vast majority of its readers don’t bother to look at the original article to find out what exactly “re-evaluation” means. To the readers of EWG’s website, where “green,” “natural,” and “healthy” are used in every other sentence, the word “re-evaluation” certainly means a reduction in the acceptable daily intake (ADI) – or even complete elimination – of BHT. However, the abstract of that article (the full text can be found here) tells a different story! As you can see clearly in the abstract,
The EFSA Panel on Food Additives and Nutrient Sources added to Food (ANS) concluded that the present database gives reason to increase (five-fold) the ADI of BHT from 0.05 mg/kg bw/day to 0.25 mg/kg bw/day.
What about EWG’s Concern about “birth weight effects in animals?” On page 25 of the report, we read that when albino strain of mice were fed 750 mg/kg bw/day of BHT (this means 750 mg of BHT per day for every kg of body weight) for 64 to 92 days before giving birth to their pups, 12 days after birth the mean number of pups alive, the mean pup weight and the mean total litter weight were lower than the overall average. How does this translate into human consumption of BHT?