EWG’s Dirty Dozen Guide to Food Chemicals: The top 12 to avoid

Our food should be nourishing and safe to eat.

But more than 10,000 chemicals are allowed in food sold in the U.S. Some are direct additives, such as preservatives like butylated hydroxyanisole, or BHA, and butylated hydroxytoluene, or BHT, which are intentionally added to processed food. Others are so-called indirect additives, like heavy metals, which contaminate food during processing, storage and packaging.

Almost 99 percent of food chemicals introduced since 2000 were greenlighted for use by food and chemical companies, rather than properly reviewed by the Food and Drug Administration. Many of these widely used chemicals are associated with major health harms, including increased risk of cancer, developmental harm and hormone disruption.

These substances end up in what we eat, thanks to a legal loophole that allows foods to be classified as “generally recognized as safe.” It’s a loophole food and chemical companies have exploited for decades – it means that instead of the FDA determining which food chemicals are safe to consume, the manufacturers of those substances decide.

That can leave consumers struggling to know what’s safe for their families.

EWG’s Dirty Dozen Guide to Food Chemicals shows you which chemicals to avoid in food by highlighting some of the worst offenders on the market.

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