Americans get a lot of flack for some of our dietary customs. Folks from other countries will call us out on our portion sizes, for instance. In my opinion, they just haven’t eaten a real big steak in Montana yet. However, some countries will go so far as to ban the sale of American-made foods altogether. One of those foods: Frosted Flakes. What gives, Europe?!
Why are Frosted Flakes banned in other countries?
Frosted Flakes are banned in the entire European Union and Japan. Their reasoning is not because of the added sugar but the added preservatives. Frosted Flakes, as well as Rice Krispies and several other Kellogg brand cereals, contain a preservative called BHT.
The United States Food and Drug Administration is responsible for monitoring the country’s food supply. They set standards for how each and every commercially available food is harvested, produced, and processed, and what ingredients are used.
The E.U. and Japan have similar organizations: the European Medicines Agency and the Japan Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry, and Fisheries. In general, they are known for having stricter food restrictions, especially when it comes to processed food. And one of the things they both agree on is that BHT has got to go.
What the heck is BHT?
Butylated hydroxytoluene, duh.
Okay…but what is that?
BHT is a naturally occurring compound often found in plankton and some fungi. It is known for its antioxidant properties, so scientists have developed a way to chemically replicate it so that it can be used for that exact purpose. In commercially processed food, BHT acts as a preservative, helping things like Frosted Flakes stay fresher longer. BHT is also used as an antioxidant in cosmetics, gas, mechanical fluids, and embalming fluid. Great to see cereal and embalming fluid sharing ingredients.
The FDA classifies BHT as “generally recognized as safe,” which isn’t as reassuring as, “yes, absolutely safe,” but it seems like that’s as close as we’re going to get. However, there have been several studies over the years that have proven BHT to be a carcinogen in rats. Does that mean it will also act that way for humans? Inconclusive, but our government agencies have decided to roll with it.
The Center for Science in the Public Interest, an independent watchdog agency, gives BHT a caution rating and says to avoid it when possible. You’ll have to decide for yourself who to believe.
How come those other countries ban BHT and we don’t?
The reality is that the EU and Japan are probably just hedging their bets. They aren’t willing to take a risk on poisoning their populaces with a carcinogen.
And some American companies are joining the bandwagon. In 2015, General Mills announced they would be removing BHT from all of their cereals. So that officially means that Lucky Charms are healthier for you than Frosted Flakes. Shop accordingly.
Am I going to die?
No, I mean am I going to die from all this BHT?
Probably not. If you drank (Huffed? Snorted? Ate? I have no idea what pure BHT is) a big ol’ jug of BHT, then, yes, it would probably screw you up. However, the amount of BHT in our foods is pretty small, so if it hasn’t gotten you yet, you’ll probably be fine. Just keep this friendly tip in mind: Everything we eat is killing us.