Antioxidant preservatives are used primarily to prevent fats and shortening from becoming rancid. They allow foods to stay on the shelf a long time. Most preservatives are not believed to be a health hazard, but the three petroleum-based antioxidant preservatives that are eliminated by the Feingold Program have been found to trigger behavior and health problems:
NAME E-NUMBER (Europe) BHA Butylated Hydroxyanisole E 320 BHT Butylated Hydroxytoluene E 131 TBHQ Tertiary Butylhydroquinone E 319
These preservatives are not always listed on product labels. If the product contains oil or other secondary ingredients, preservatives in those ingredients may not be listed. They can be avoided, however, by using the Feingold Association’s Foodlist & Shopping Guide which you receive when you become a Feingold member.
Until about one hundred years ago, foods were preserved in traditional ways, including canning, salting, drying and fermenting. But during World War II chemical preservatives were developed to preserve food for soldiers on the front lines.
After the war, the companies making these preservatives needed new markets for their preservative chemicals as well as for the nerve gases and other toxic chemicals which had been developed for warfare. While nerve gases became the basis for the pesticide industry, the petrochemical preservatives BHA, BHT, and (later) TBHQ found new markets here at home — in foods, cleaning supplies, and plastics — for a public enthralled with all things “modern” and embracing the idea of “better living through chemistry.”
Such chemicals have been put into our food and environment for so many years that “long shelf life” appears normal to us, and it is only recently that Americans are questioning the wisdom of this huge chemical experiment.