Keeping harmful food additives off your Thanksgiving table

Thanksgiving is just around the corner, and it can be stressful.

There’s enough to worry about with cooking, cleaning, spending time with nosy relatives and staying safe during the Covid-19 pandemic for the second year in a row. The last thing you want to think about is whether potentially harmful food additives are lurking in your stuffing and pie.

But many of the foods commonly found on the Thanksgiving table contain two additives that can increase your risk of cancer and cause hormone disruption.

The additives butylated hydroxyanisole, or BHA, and butylated hydroxytoluene, or BHT, are added to processed foods as preservatives. They can be found in everything from cereal to preserved meats.

Despite the health harms associated with BHA and BHT and their widespread use, these additives continue to be allowed in the food we eat. They were approved through a regulatory loophole for “generally recognized as safe,” or GRAS, substances that lets companies, not the Food and Drug Administration, determine whether ingredients are safe.

Congress must close the GRAS loophole, and the FDA must review BHA and BHT and other GRAS additives. But until that much-needed change happens, here are some ways to immediately avoid putting BHA and BHT on your Thanksgiving table.

Get Your Free Guide: EWG's Guide to Food Additives

Snack mix

Snack mix is great for the holidays. It’s inexpensive and delicious and a classic that everyone can enjoy. However, store-bought mixes frequently use BHA and BHT for freshness. Thinking up your own recipe for snack mix can help you avoid potentially harmful food additives. Just make sure to check the labels on your ingredients.

Mashed potatoes

Mashing potatoes from scratch can be laborious and time consuming. But boxed mashed potatoes often contain BHA and BHT, so mashing your own can also help you avoid feeding your guests harmful food additives.


Making stuffing from a mix may speed up your cooking time, but can also cause you to ingest potentially harmful additives. Try creating your own instead. If that’s not possible, make sure to read labels to avoid products containing BHA and BHT. Check out EWG’s Food Scores, which rates food on nutrition, ingredient and processing concerns, to find healthier alternatives.


Whether you’re a pecan, sweet potato or pumpkin person, you can probably agree that pie is a delicious and essential part of Thanksgiving meals. So it’s a real bummer to find out your favorite dessert may include additives that can disrupt your hormones and increase your risk of cancer. BHA and BHT can often be found in premade pie crusts.

Try baking your own this year, or check the label on your crust before buying to make sure it doesn’t contain these additives. And use EWG’s Food Scores to find better alternatives.

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