Popular food preservative may be toxic to the immune system

A newly published study warns that a preservative found in hundreds of readily available processed foods, including popular snacks, may be toxic to the immune system. The findings were published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health and involved data from the EPA’s Toxicity Forecaster (“ToxCast”).

The study comes from researchers with the Environmental Working Group, which used ToxCast to evaluate the potential impact popular food additives may have on health. In addition, the team also evaluated the effect of PFAS, which are known as ‘forever chemicals’ — and, sadly, they’re found in packagings like fast food wrappers and processing equipment.

The researchers found that commonly used food preservative tert-butylhydroquinone (TBHQ) may be toxic to the immune system. The findings were observed both in high-throughput in-vitro toxicology testing and animal tests. This is particularly concerning given how many foods feature TBHQ, including nearly 1,250 ‘popular processed foods,’ according to the study.

In addition, the researchers note that PFAS forever chemicals can make their way from packaging and food wrappers to the food itself — and that’s a problem, as these chemicals are also linked to a suppressed immune system. Among other things, the impact on the immune system can make vaccines less effective.

The study’s lead author Olga Naidenko, PhD, explained:

The pandemic has focused public and scientific attention on environmental factors that can impact the immune system. 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.