Bad news: It can't be spotted on packaged food labels.
Food allergies—particularly to common ingredients like eggs, dairy, and peanuts—can significantly alter anyone's life, but even more so for children and those caring for them. A researcher at Michigan State University is trying to pinpoint one of the causes...in your grocery bag.
Cheryl Rockwell, an assistant professor and researcher at MSU, has a son with allergies and started running tests on a common additive that is found in a wide variety of packaged foods. According to Michigan's WILX News, Rockwell points to tert-butylhydroquinone—or tBHQ—as a potential culprit.
According to Rockwell, tBHQ is "used to prevent rancidification or spoilage of food, and it's used in a wide variety of foods." Because the synthetic liquid in which tBHQ is contained is added in small quantities, companies aren't required to include the ingredient on their ingredients label. "There's a limit for a percentage composition of a food for what needs to be on the label and tBHQ is often not included," she says.
The researcher injected an equivalent percentage of tBHQ into lab mice and observed their reactions. "The control animals were a little itchy, scratchy, ruby," Rockwell says, comparing their response to the additive to an allergic reaction.
While there is still much research to be done to prove Rockwell's hypothesis, it never hurts to make your own healthy snacks. In case you're looking for something that can combat allergies, we hear eating seaweed or sticking to a high-fiber diet can also help.