Choose foods & cosmetics made without BHA

Choose foods & cosmetics made without BHA

March 29, 2023

Butylated hydroxytoluene (BHA) is a chemical antioxidant used as a preservative in foods. It prevents edible fats and oils from going rancid and can be found in baked goods, dehydrated foods, snack foods, processed meats, chewing gum, cosmetics, and animal feed. It’s also an ingredient in food packaging as well as rubber and petroleum products.

Because this preservative been shown to mimic the hormone estrogen, BHA is listed as a Category 1 priority substance by the European Commission on Endocrine Disruption. The International Agency for Research on Cancer classifies the compound as a possible human carcinogen. BHA is also toxic to aquatic organisms.

The use of BHA preservatives in food exposes us to small amounts; it is not permitted in quantities that exceed 0.02% of the food’s total fat content or 0.1% of chewing gum. There are also limits on levels in dry foods. Beyond ingesting it via food, BHA can also be ingested or absorbed through the skin via the lipsticks, lip glosses, facial creams, eye shadows, and mascaras that contain it as a preservative.

To avoid BHA, be an avid label reader—both on packaged foods as well as cosmetic and personal care products. A search for BHA in the National Library of Medicine’s Household Products Database will reveal brand names of the many products that contain it. And you can search for personal care products containing BHA on the Environmental Working Group’s Skin Deep cosmetic safety database. If you’re out shopping and unable to consult a database, choosing whole and minimally processed foods that are free of preservatives, as well as natural cosmetic and personal care products is prudent.