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5 Toxic Chemicals Found in Our Processed Foods

by Melissa Bell
3 minutes read

Toxic chemicals are probably the last thing on your mind when it comes to the weekly grocery shopping trip, but if you’re buying tons of processed foods, you’re getting those toxic chemicals right inside the food you’re eating.

Here’s a quick look at some of the most questionable substances in processed food and why you should avoid them like the plague if possible.

Brominated vegetable oil

Brominated vegetable oil (BVO) was used in soft drinks like Pepsi and Coca-Cola before 2013, but due to recent scrutiny from consumers, the toxic substance has been mostly removed from soft drinks. BVO is allowed as a food additive in Latin America and North America, but it is banned in Japan and the European Union, and for a good reason.

A study in the 1970s linked the consumption of BVO to heart disease in rats. The FDA has approved the interim use of the chemical, so long as it doesn’t exceed 15ppm. Still, a chemical that has links to heart disease and other health concerns probably shouldn’t be consumed.

Polysorbate 60

Before you reach for those Twinkies to add to your kid’s lunch, you should know they’re loaded with Polysorbate 60. It’s often used in imitation cream, frozen desserts, and even dill pickles. It helps prevent baked goods from going stale, but the Journal of National Cancer Institute reports that polysorbate 60 can have a lasting adverse effect on reproductive organs and may cause cancer in high enough doses.


Microwave popcorn can be an excellent treat for the family, but the artificial butter flavoring may contain a toxic chemical called diacetyl that has been determined to have profoundly adverse effects on humans.

Diacetyl is often used as a flavoring agent in products like butter, margarine, shortening, or any other butter flavored substances. Products that are advertised as having a buttery flavor are usually loaded with diacetyl. However, diacetyl has been known to cause popcorn lung and could ultimately require a lung transplant in treatment.

Chlorine Dioxide

Chlorine dioxide is the chemical that is used to bleach flour, but studies have shown that it can be toxic in high amounts. The problem is it’s also used to treat our drinking water and large-scale geographical disasters like Hurricane Harvey. The EPA carefully regulates the amount of chlorine that’s allowed to be present in our drinking water, but the same isn’t true for the food we eat.


Parabens are a preservative that is used in a wide variety of products, but their most common application today is in beauty products like shampoo, conditioner, deodorant, body wash, and lotions. Parabens were determined to be safe by the FDA, but cumulative exposure to them (like your daily shower routine) could result in lots of health problems over time. Parabens are known to disrupt the way our hormones function, which can contribute to breast cancer and other reproductive issues.

These are just a small sample of some of the toxic chemicals that are allowed by the FDA to be present in our foods and body care products. That’s why it’s important to educate yourself about the ingredients your family is eating, because repeated and lasting exposure to these chemicals can cause long-term health problems in every system of the body.

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