A food preservative used to prolong the shelf life of Pop-Tarts, Rice Krispies Treats, Cheez-Its and almost 1,250 other popular processed foods may harm the immune system, a new study suggests. The findings showed that the preservative tert-butylhydroquinone, or TBHQ, has been found to harm the immune system both in both animal tests and in non-animal tests known as high-throughput in vitro toxicology testing.
TBHQ is a preservative that is pervasive in processed foods. It has been used in foods for many decades and serves no function besides increasing a product's shelf life. Using new non-animal test results, the team found that TBHQ affected immune cell proteins at doses similar to those that cause harm in traditional studies.
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"The pandemic has focused public and scientific attention on environmental factors that can impact the immune system," said researcher Olga Naidenko from the US-based Environmental Working Group. "Before the pandemic, chemicals that may harm the immune system's defense against infection or cancer did not receive sufficient attention from public health agencies. To protect public health, this must change," Naidenko added.
For the study, published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, the researchers used data from the Environmental Protection Agency's Toxicity Forecaster, or ToxCast, to assess the health hazards of the most common chemicals added to food, as well as the "forever chemicals" known as PFAS, which can migrate to food from packaging.
They analyzed all publicly available studies that show how PFAS migrate to food from packaging materials or processing equipment. Earlier studies have found that TBHQ might influence how well flu vaccines work and may be linked to a rise in food allergies. (IANS/SP)