Toxic Peanut Butter Alert

Is Your PB&J Making You Sick?

Written by Brian Hicks
Posted June 4, 2012

For those of us without a peanut allergy, there's nothing like a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. The nostalgia alone is reason to make one sometimes. However, those with peanut allergies may breathe a sigh of relief after reading about a new report recently covered by the Huffington Post.

In a new study (produced by the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences) of popular products bought from grocery stores in Dallas, just about half of the peanut butter and cold cuts sampled contained traces of a flame retardant chemical that is normally used in foam insulation of building walls.

The chemical, hexabromocyclododecane (HBCD) is just another example of a toxic chemical making its way into food. In the past, traces of PCBs, DDT, mercury and other flame retardants have been found in food as well.

All of these chemicals carry massive health risks ranging from diabetes to cancer. The EPA has labeled HBCD as “highly toxic” and could even cause problems in human hormone function and reproduction as well as causing harm to a child in utero. Traces of the chemical have even been found in umbilical cord blood.

Not surprisingly, the chemical industry, with billions of dollars at stake, offers a glass half full take on this disaster. “Based on these findings, the real story is that HBCD was not detected in the majority of the samples and in those where it was, it was well below levels where one might see adverse health effects,” said Bryan Goodman, a spokesman for the lobbying group the North American Flame Retardant Alliance of the American Chemistry Council.

While it is true that the levels were lower than what the government allows, if consumed over a long period of time, the chemical presence adds up.

None of this, however, answers the biggest question: how did this chemical get into the food?

One theory is that the HBCD could be transferred from air, water or soil during the peanut growing process. It could end up in fertilizer that is used on the peanuts, end up in water supplies when watering the peanuts and so on.