Immune system may be impaired by common food preservatives

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Researchers from the Environmental Working Group (EWG) conducted a study on the immunotoxicity of food additives and contact substances present in many food products, such as Little Debbie Swiss Rolls, Cheez-It crackers and Pop-Tarts.

The research mainly assessed the effects of TBHQ, a preservative used to make the shelf life of products last longer, and PFAS, a class of substances commonly present in coatings of cookware, reusable plastics and gaskets in food processing appliances.

The researchers evaluated data from available studies and mainly from the ToxCast method, which assesses in-vitro immunotoxicity (but not live animal testing).

Only food contact substances with a high daily exposure are required to have their immunotoxicity tested, according to the FDA. As such, many products have unknown effects on the immune system.

The study found that ToxCast data can be unreliable, as it sometimes conflicts with other data. Some results were inconclusive because of the lack of research, but the final conclusion is that chemicals such as TBHQ and PFAS can harm the immune system function.

These findings are especially important during the Covid-19 pandemic, since immune response is fundamental not only in that disease’s outcome, but also in the body’s response to a vaccine.

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