Dr. Sunil - Is It Bad For You? Approved by Dr. Sunil

Is TBHQ Bad For You?

Also Known As: tertiary butylhydroquinone



Short answer

TBHQ is used in commercially produced foods as a preservative to increase shelf life. Like many other preservatives, TBHQ is known to cause a wide range of negative short-term and long-term effects - this additive should be avoided.



Long answer

Tertiary Butylhydroquinone, also known as TBHQ, has the properties of an antioxidant. This makes it an excellent additive to commercially produced foods, as it preserves the color, flavor, and smell of the food. This means that a product can have a much later expiration date and can last longer on store shelves, saving the company money and avoiding wasting product. A product that has all of these benefits, however, usually means it is bad for you.

As a consumer, you'll often find TBHQ in packaged or processed foods that have fats and oils. This includes a huge range of products, from cookies to frozen meals. The FDA has evaluated TBHQ and has set up guidelines, based on the amount of the additive that can be consumed safely. Products containing over 0.02 percent of TBHQ can be harmful.

TBHQ is still being studied to determine the level of the chemical can be considered safe and what the effects are when consumed in higher doses. Currently, there are several short-term and long-term effects that have been noted. Consuming an excess of the chemical can lead to nausea, vomiting, delirium, collapse and ringing in the ears. Over time, the chemical can be linked to hyperactivity (worsening the symptoms of ADHD), arthritis, rhinitis, dermatitis, and asthma.

While the FDA is regulating the amount of TBHQ in products, the additive is found in so many products that it is possible to greatly exceed the acceptable amount each day. Be sure to check labels to avoid consuming excess TBHQ. You may see the following ingredients listed, each of which refers to the preservative: tertiary butylhydroquinone, tert-Butylhydroquinone, TBHQ, butylated hydroxyanisole.

Possible short-term side effects

  • nausea
  • vomiting
  • delirium
  • collapse
  • ringing in ears

Possible long-term side effects

  • hyperactivity
  • arthritis
  • asthma
  • rhinitis
  • dermatitis

Commonly found in


  • preserves food

Thank you for your feedback!

Written by Rachel Adams
Published on: 12-28-2015
Last updated: 12-18-2017

Thank you for your feedback!

Written by Rachel Adams
Published on: 12-28-2015
Last updated: 12-18-2017

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