If one knows nothing about tBHQ, a preservative that prevents oxidation of oils used in processed foods, popcorn and in McDonald’s French fries, a Google search will lead to a variety of information:
(1) Some people who may be raising legitimate concerns about the additive make themselves easy prey for attack by revealing that they are chemically illiterate. They confuse a butyl-derivative with butane, and they are intimidated by the fact that it’s a petroleum byproduct without realizing that a wide array of compounds are petroleum-based, ranging from carcinogenic benzene to aspirin, which is more beneficial than harmful.
(2) McDonald’s own web site does not inspire confidence either. The full name of tBHQ (tertiary-butylhydroquinone) is incorrectly capitalized and misspelled. But what they say about regulatory approval is indeed accurate: the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) and the American and Canadian equivalents have given the preservative the thumbs up.
(3) A concentration of 200 mg of tBHQ per kg of fat or oil cannot be exceeded. The limit, reported on the EFSA web site, is based on dog studies. But due to the small weight of infants, the antioxidant is to be kept out of infant formula. tBHQ does not accumulate in the body; it’s excreted mostly through urine. After 2 to 4 days of ingesting it, there are no traces of it in the body. The same linked source describes extensive cellular and subchronic studies. Other researchers looked for cancer-causing effects and found none.
(4) But one area had not been investigated—the possibility of allergies. 2014 research published in the Journal of Immunology concluded that:
Overall, these studies suggest that low doses of the food additive, tBHQ, increase IgE (immunoglobin E) response to food allergen and exacerbate clinical signs of immediate hypersensitivity.
It’s ironic that our need for the “easy life” , a quick snack or meal on the go creates a need for so much regulation and animal-research that often reveals that additives are not as dangerous but neither as innocuous as they seemed.
Not growing or buying fresh potatoes and peeling and cooking them yourself surely complicates life.