What is Butylated Hydroxyanisole(E320) in food? Uses, Safety, Side effects

What is Butylated Hydroxyanisole(E320) in food? Uses, Safety, Side effects


Table of Contents

Butylated hydroxytoluene, or BHA for short, is an organic compound which is used in the food industry as a preservative and antioxidant. Although this food additive has been around for many years, there are still a lot of questions about it, with different parts of the world having very different attitudes regarding its use.

To try to get some clarity on this controversial compound, we have compiled the most important facts about what is BHA in food, its uses, safety and side effects.

What is butylated hydroxyanisole?

Butylated hydroxyanisole (BHA) is a food additive used to preserve fats and oils, such as butter and vegetable oils. It is also used in cosmetics, such as lipstick, deodorant and skin creams.

Butylated hydroxyanisole (BHA) is a chemical that has been added to foods since the 1920s. It is found in products like butter, lard, baked goods and potato chips. The National Toxicology Program classifies BHA as “reasonably anticipated to be a human carcinogen.”

BHA is also known as butylparaben or butylated hydroxytoluene (BHT). It is used in cosmetics as an antioxidant to prevent fats from going rancid. It also helps prevent mold from growing on foods such as cereal grains, nuts and seeds before they are packaged for sale at grocery stores.

What is butylated hydroxyanisole made of?

Butylated hydroxyanisole (BHA) is an antioxidant that is used to preserve foods and cosmetics. It is also sometimes known as butyl paraben.

BHA is made by reacting butanol with 4-tertiary butyl phenol. This reaction produces a mixture of compounds, including BHA and three other isomers: 2,4 di-tertiary butyl phenol (DTBP), 2,6 di-tertiary butyl phenol (DTBPH), and 2,5 di-tertiary butyl phenol (DBP).


From Wikipedia

How is butylated hydroxyanisole made?

Butylated hydroxyanisole (BHA) is a common food preservative used to prevent oxidation in foods. BHA is added to many foods, particularly meat and poultry products, to prevent spoilage. The European Union has approved its use as an additive in food at concentrations of up to 0.1%.

Butylated hydroxyanisole (BHA), also known as butylhydroxyanisole, BHA or tertiary butylhydroquinone (TBHQ), is an organic compound with the formula C6H5-CH(COCH3)2. It is a secondary antioxidant and an anti-corrosion agent that inhibits free radical chain reactions through its phenolic OH groups. It is prepared by reacting phenol with isobutylene.


Appearance White to slightly yellow waxy with a faint characteristic odor
Other names Butyl hydroxyanisole, tert-butyl-4-hydroxyanisole, tert-butyl-4-methoxyphenol
CAS number 25013-16-5
Chemical formula C11H16O2
Molecular weight 180.25
Solubility Insoluble in water, freely soluble in ethanol, propylene glycol, food fats and oils

What is butylated hydroxyanisole used for?

Butylated hydroxyanisole (BHA) is a food additive used as a preservative to prevent fats and oils from spoiling. BHA is not to be confused with butylated hydroxytoluene (BHT), which has similar properties and uses but is not chemically related.

BHA has been used since the early 1900s, and it is commonly added to cereals, cereal bars, potato chips, chewing gum, cheese spreads, chewing tobacco, dried fruit, nut mixes and other snacks. It’s also found in cosmetics and perfumes.

There is a possibility that BHA is present in the following processed foods:

  • Frying oil
  • Shortenings
  • Butter
  • Lard
  • Cereals
  • Chewing gum
  • Margarine
  • Dehydrated potatoes
  • Baked foods
  • Fat-soluble vitamins

In addition to its use in food products, BHA is sometimes added to cosmetics such as lipstick or mascara to prevent spoilage during storage. Although BHA hasn’t been directly linked with any health problems, some studies have raised concerns about its safety when ingested.

Is butylated hydroxyanisole safe to eat?

Butylated hydroxyanisole (BHA) is an antioxidant added to foods as a preservative. BHA is found in high concentration in foods such as cereals, potato chips, chewing gum and coffee creamer. It’s also used in animal feed and cosmetics.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has classified BHA as generally recognized as safe (GRAS). This means that there is a consensus among scientists that BHA is safe for consumption. In the European Union, however, BHA is banned from use in food products.

International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) considers BHA to be a possible carcinogen. The IARC classifies BHA as “possibly carcinogenic to humans” based on limited human evidence combined with limited evidence from animal studies showing that butylated hydroxyanisole causes tumors in rodents when given orally or applied topically. However, the IARC notes that there’s no evidence of increased cancer risk associated with dietary intake of BHA at levels typically found in the American diet.


Butylated hydroxyanisole (BHA) is generally considered safe (GRAS), classified as a preservative and can be used as an antioxidant alone or in combination with BHT in shortenings, dry breakfast cereals, processed potato products, and other foods at concentrations ranging from 2ppm to 1000ppm.


The Commission Regulation (EU) No 231/2012 lists butylated hydroxyanisole (E320) as an authorised food additive and categorizes it as “additives other than colours and sweeteners”.

Safety re-evaluation in 2011

The EFSA concluded BHA was no genotoxicity but revised the ADI from 0.5 mg/kg bw/day (established by JECFA and SCF) to 1.0 mg/kg bw/day due to the proliferative changes caused at high doses in the rat forestomach from studies of long-term toxicity and carcinogenicity.

Approved uses

In its application, it is either used alone or in combination with TBHQ and propyl gallate, with a maximum dosage rate of 25-400 mg/kg.


Function Class: food additives and antioxidants.

Acceptable daily intake: The ADI “0-0.5 mg/kg bw” was set in 1998.

Is butylated hydroxyanisole safe?

Butylated hydroxyanisole (BHA) is a food additive commonly used to preserve fats and oils in foods.

BHA has been found to be safe for use in the U.S., according to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). However, the European Union has banned it from use in foods since 1985 because of its possible negative health effects.

The National Toxicology Program (NTP) of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) conducted studies on BHA and concluded that there was no evidence that it caused cancer or reproductive problems in laboratory animals.

The NTP did find some evidence that BHA may cause cancer in rats at high doses, but only when exposure began during prenatal development and continued throughout adulthood. The NTP also found that some rats developed liver tumors after exposure to large amounts of BHA over long periods of time.

In one study, researchers fed rats 1,000 milligrams per kilogram body weight per day (mg/kg/day) — more than 100 times higher than what humans consume — over three years and found increased rates of liver tumors in male rats compared with controls. However, these results have not been replicated by other scientists or confirmed by other independent studies looking at carcinogenicity potential.

How much butylated hydroxyanisole is safe?

Butylated hydroxyanisole or BHA is a chemical that is commonly added to foods, cosmetics and pharmaceuticals. It’s added to foods to prevent them from becoming rancid. It’s also added to cosmetics and medications because it helps prevent oxidation. This can help prevent a number of different problems, such as discoloration, changes in flavor and loss of potency.

Butylated hydroxyanisole isn’t considered toxic when consumed in small amounts, but it can be harmful if you consume large amounts over time. If you’re worried about consuming too much butylated hydroxyanisole, talk with your doctor or pharmacist about ways that you can reduce your intake of this substance.

The FDA has set an upper limit for butylated hydroxyanisole at 0.5 grams per kilogram of body weight per day for adults under 18 years old and at 0.35 grams per kilogram per day for adults over 18 years old. This means that an adult weighing 100 pounds would need to consume less than 50 milligrams of butylated hydroxyanisole each day to stay within the recommended limits set by the FDA.

What are the side effects of butylated hydroxyanisole?

Butylated hydroxyanisole, or BHA, is a chemical that has been used since the 1920s as a food additive. BHA is an antioxidant that prevents fats from going rancid and prolongs the shelf life of foods. As a result, it is found in many processed foods and some cosmetics.

BHA can also be found in cigarette smoke and exhaust fumes.

Butylated Hydroxyanisole Side Effects

BHA can cause allergic reactions in some people who are sensitive to it. Symptoms vary depending on the sensitivity of the individual but can include:

  • Skin rash or hives
  • Swelling of lips, face or tongue
  • Shortness of breath
  • Difficulty breathing and swallowing

Where to buy butylated hydroxyanisole?

Butylated hydroxyanisole (BHA) is a common antioxidant used in food and cosmetics. It also has antimicrobial properties.

BHA can be purchased at most grocery stores or pharmacies, but it’s not as easy to find as other antioxidants like vitamin C or vitamin E. You can try searching for it on Amazon or using Google Shopping to find it elsewhere online if you prefer shopping online.

The best places to buy BHA are local grocery stores and health food stores.

Frequently Asked Questions

Where does Butylated Hydroxytoluene Come from?

Butylated hydroxytoluene is a chemical that exists naturally in the body and helps to protect it against the cell-damaging effects of free radicals. It is also added to foods, cosmetics, and drugs as an antioxidant.

Butylated hydroxytoluene (BHT) is a chemical that exists naturally in the body and helps to protect it against the cell-damaging effects of free radicals. It is also added to foods, cosmetics, and drugs as an antioxidant. BHT prevents food from becoming rancid and gives some vitamins their potency, according to the National Institutes of Health’s Office of Dietary Supplements (ODS).

BHT is found in all natural fats and oils, including vegetable oils and animal fats. It also occurs naturally in green leafy vegetables such as spinach, lettuce, celery, cabbage, cauliflower and carrots.

is Butylated Hydroxyanisole Toxic?

BHA is considered safe by the FDA, it’s found in many popular foods. Some companies even use it as a preservative in their products.

Is Butylated Hydroxyanisole Vegan?

Yes, butylated hydroxyanisole is vegan. Butylated hydroxyanisole is a preservative used in foods and cosmetics. The ingredient is synthetic and has been deemed safe for use in food products by the FDA.

Is Butylated Hydroxyanisole Gluten Free?

Yes, butylated hydroxyanisole is gluten free and widely used in gluten free foods to prevent spoilage and extend shelf life.

Is Butylated Hydroxyanisole Good for Skin?


Butylated hydroxyanisole (BHA) is an anti-oxidant that has been shown to protect skin from the sun and other environmental stress. It can also help reduce wrinkles, increase elasticity, and improve skin tone.

Does Butylated Hydroxyanisole Expire?

Yes, butylated hydroxytoluene does expire. Butylated hydroxytoluene is a preservative that is found in many common foods, including cereals and snack foods. It is also used in cosmetics, medications and some personal care products. The expiration date may be printed on the package or container as an “expiration” date or “use by” date.

Butylated hydroxytoluene begins to lose its effectiveness after it has been open for a period of time. In addition, once you open the container, the preservative will begin to lose its effectiveness over time due to exposure to air and light.

Does Butylated Hydroxyanisole and Butylated Hydroxytoluene Cause Cancer?

Butylated hydroxyanisole (BHA) and butylated hydroxytoluene (BHT) are two popular ingredients used in food and cosmetics. They are antioxidants that prevent fats from going rancid. BHA is also used in the pharmaceutical and cosmetic industries as a stabilizer for other ingredients.

Safety Concerns about Butylated Hydroxyanisole and Butylated Hydroxytoluene

BHA and BHT have been linked to cancer in animals, but there’s no conclusive evidence that they cause cancer in humans. The National Toxicology Program (NTP) reviewed studies of both BHA and BHT in rats and mice, finding that some cancers occurred more frequently in animals fed high doses of these chemicals over their lifetimes than those who were not fed the chemicals. For example, male rats fed large amounts of BHA developed liver tumors while female rats didn’t develop any tumors at all. In another study, mice were given high doses of BHT — equal to the amount you’d get if you ate 400 hot dogs every day for 25 years — without developing any cancers.


To summarize, BHA acts as an antioxidant in food, protecting it from degrading during the process of storage. It is considered generally safe by the FDA , with a range of 0 – 10ppm allowed in approved foods. It can make food last longer, but it is also fragile, and you don’t want to add too much to your food or it will become toxic and affect the way your body metabolizes its nutrients. For these reasons, BHA is not mandatory for its use in foods, and overuse can lead to health risks.

Sophie Feng

Sophie Feng

Sophie Feng is the author of gradechemical.com, she is the co-founder of the grade chemical network. She has been in grade chemical company since 2017, with a working knowledge of food chemical .

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