What is Butylated Hydroxy Anisole (BHA) – Uses, Advantages, Side Effects, FDA Approval

What is Butylated Hydroxy Anisole (BHA)?

Butylated Hydroxy Anisole (BHA) is widely used preservative in foods by food industries.Its function is to provide protection to oil in food products to get oxidized and become rancid. BHA is a mixture of the isomers 3-tert-butyl-4-hydroxyanisole and 2-tert-butyl-4-hydroxyanisole. It is white-yellow colour waxy solid.

Apart from acting as preservative in food products, BHA is also used because of its anti-microbial activity and its anti-oxidant property. It guards the colour, flavour of the food. BHA is used to preserve various packed food materials like chips, butter, cereals, preserved meat, beer, baked goods etc.

Synonyms: Butylhydroxyanisole; Embanox; Protex; Antioxyne B; Tenox BHA

Molecular Formula: C22H32O4

History of BHA

BHA has been added to food products due to its property of anti-oxidant from several years. Oxygen reacts with BHA rather than oxidizing fats or oils, thereby protecting it from spoilage.

Commercial Preparation of BHA

It is prepared from 4-methoxyphenoland isobutylene. It is a waxy solid used as a food additive with the E numberE320.BHA is prepared from 4-methoxyphenol and tert-butyl alcohol over silica or alumina at 150°C or from hydroquinone and tert-butyl alcohol or isobutene, using an acid catalyst and then methylating. (PubChem)

Uses of BHA:

  • BHA is used as a food additive.
  • It is used as a preservative in food products.
  • It is used in food products for its anti-microbial activity & anti-oxidant activity.
  • It is used as a de-foaming agent used with yeast.
  • It is used in food packaging and animal foods.
  • It is used in the formulation of cosmetics & rubber.
  • It is also used in several medicines.

Advantages of BHA:

  • BHA is a potent anti-oxidant; hence it prevents the product to become rancid.
  • It remains stable at high temperature.

Disadvantages of BHA:

  • National Toxicology Program (NTP) has concluded BHA is carcinogenic to humans, based on their animal research.
  • Some studies have also shown that BHA stimulates production of cancer causing enzyme.
  • BHA is safe in low doses, but carcinogenic in high doses.

Side effects of taking excess amount of BHA:

  • It has been known to impair blood clotting, when consumed in high quantity.
  • It promotes tumour.

FDA Approval on BHA

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) categorizes BHA as food additives as GRAS (generally recognized as safe), which means they are considered safe for their intended use in specified amounts.

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