Gwen Leron: 50 Shades of Green


What is Butylated Hydroxytoluene (BHT)?

And why is it in your cereal?

What is BHT?

Ahh, cereal. The yummy, sweet breakfast most of us grew up eating daily and the quick, convenient breakfast most parents feed their kids on a daily basis. But did you know that there may be something in those cereals that may be doing more harm than good?

If you’re like me, before you buy any new product, even cereal, you scan the ingredients for any no-nos…

This particular cereal got put back on the shelf. For a few reasons…the two big ones: sugar is the second ingredient and the other reason? That last ingredient: BHT.

What is BHT?

Simply put, Butylated Hydroxytoluene (BHT), and the related Butylated Hydroxyanisole (BHA) are preservatives manufacturers use to keep cereals, and other foods fresh. They are man-made antioxidants that are added to foods containing oils in order to prevent those oils from oxidizing or going rancid quickly. These chemicals give food a longer shelf-life which is something that is obviously a benefit to manufacturers.

It doesn’t sound so bad, but consider this: BHT is also used as an ingredient in jet fuel, cosmetics, rubber petroleum products, and embalming fluid. So why would you want to put this ingredient in your body?

Why is BHT Harmful?

BHT and BHA are known carcinogens, they are also endocrine disrupters (meaning they can alter hormone function) and may be toxic to our blood, liver, and central nervous system and unfortunately, can cause a lot more health problems.

Because BHT and BHA are used in small amounts when it comes to using them as food preservatives, Health Canada considers them to be safe (in small amounts), so they are both approved for use in food products and cosmetics in Canada.

How Can You Avoid BHT?

Since Health Canada has not banned these ingredients, manufacturers are free to use them as they please. This article on states:

"...although Health Canada has categorized BHA as a "high human health priority" on the basis of carcinogenicity and BHT as a "moderate human health priority". Both chemicals have been flagged for future assessment under the government's Chemicals Management Plan."

In the meantime, I personally prefer to avoid them.

Here are a few ways you can avoid BHT and BHA in your cereal (and other foods) if you choose to do so:

  1. Read your labels. If it contains BHT or BHA, don’t buy it.
  2. Buy organic cereals. 100% organic cereals contain only organic ingredients. BHT and BHA are not organic so seek out brands that carry one of the certified organic symbols. Don’t be fooled by cereals that say “made with” or "contains” organic ingredients. These cereals can still contain BHT or BHA. A good, organic (and Canadian!) cereal manufacturer is Nature's Path, one of my personal favourite brands. Here is a list of 7 BHT-free cereals.
  3. Avoid cereals. Homemade is going to always be more time-consuming when compared to cereal, but with some planning, it can be done. If fresh, homemade breakfasts are not possible because of the morning rush, think about making ahead and refrigerating or freezing. Here are some ideas for healthy, cereal-free breakfasts that will satisfy each member of your family:

  Quick, Easy, and Delicious Breakfast Options
  Six Healthy, Kid-Friendly Breakfast Ideas