Fact-check: Japan hasn’t banned BHT due to health risks

Fact-check: Japan hasn’t banned BHT due to health risks

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BHT is a lab-made chemical that is permitted for use as a preservative in food products within specified concentration limits.

There is a widespread rumour circulating on social media platforms that Japan has prohibited the sale of popular American cereals such as Frosted Flakes and Rice Krispies. The purported reason behind this ban is the presence of Butylated Hydroxytoluene (BHT), a chemical that has been associated with potential health risks, including cancer concerns. 

Is this true? Not quite, finds First Check. It is a misleading claim based on partial facts that don’t present the complete picture. 

First things first, BHT is a lab-made chemical that is commonly added to various food items, including cereals, oils, and nuts, as a preservative. The synthetic phenolic compound is permitted for use in food products within specified concentration limits. 

In Japan too, BHT is commonly used in several food products. However, specific food and beverage products from the United States have not received the mandatory approvals in Japan. This can be attributed to various factors, including concerns about food safety, differences in cultural preferences, and the country’s regulatory guidelines. It is wrong to assume that the presence of BHT is the reason for this supposed “ban”. 

What does research say? 

Exploring how these chemical substances impact the human body over a period of time is an important area of scientific research. One study indicates that continuous ingestion of these preservatives could lead to their gradual accumulation in the body, potentially causing carcinogenic or mutagenic effects in humans. 

Apart from packaged foods, BHT also features prominently in beauty and skincare products as well as pharmaceutical formulations and ointments. It has become a part of modern-day living in several ways. 

We need more scientific studies to critically examine the health risks, if any, of incorporating these chemicals in our foods. So far, the crucial takeaway from research is that the safe consumption of BHT hinges on moderation.