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Food Safety Focus (132nd Issue, July 2017 ) – Food Incident Highlight

The Antioxidant, TBHQ, in Instant Noodles

Recently, media discussed the harmful effects of instant noodles. One of the accusations is that they contain a so-called “cancer-causing agent”, TBHQ (tertiary butylhydroquinone).

TBHQ (INS no. 319) is a food additive, generally used as an antioxidant in animal-derived food products and in fats or oils. It can retard rancidity in fats and oils and extend their shelf life. The safety of TBHQ has been evaluated by international food safety authorities. It is concluded that TBHQ is not carcinogenic and is safe to consume at the level allowed in foods. Both Codex and Hong Kong allow the use of TBHQ in instant noodles up to 200 ppm (fat basis).

TBHQ in instant noodles should not be a food safety concern. However, instant noodles are generally high in salt and fat. For maintaining a balance diet, consumers may choose other low salt and low fat alternatives such as plain noodles, vermicelli, macaroni etc. added with some fresh vegetables, lean meats and a little seasoning.