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The Real Dangerous Source of Parabens: Your Food?

Public domain photograph of various meats. (Be...
I mentioned this yesterday in a product review, and received so many e-mails about it, I decided to make it a separate post and address it further. Parabens have been declared safe in the concentrations they are used in skin care and cosmetics - up to 0.25% in the United States.  And based on the evidence, I agree with the FDA's decision:  parabens have not been shown to cause cancer or hormonal defects  in the typical concentrations they are used in skin care or cosmetics products in vivo.  Nor have they been shown to "build up" in the skin for longer than 36 hours at a time.  [Read more:  Spotlight On:  Parabens] Still, certain things don't make sense.  For instance, breast cancer tumors have been found to contain parabens (Journal of Applied Toxicology, 2004).

So if not from skin care and cosmetics, how did they get there?

English: Shelves of packaged food inside a Ral...
And then it hit me:  It must be from our food. I'm not the first to think this:  A study in the Journal of Toxicology and Applied Pharmacology states we eat ten times more parabens in foods than we apply topically.

How to Avoid Parabens in Your Food

Parabens are found in some packaged:
Pie
  • Cakes
  • Pie crusts
  • Pastries
  • Icings
  • Toppings
  • Fillings
  • The jelly coatings of meat products
  • Surface treatment of dried meat products
  • Cereal- or potato-based snacks and coated nuts
  • Confectionery (excluding chocolate)
  • Liquid dietary food supplements

Why Haven't We Heard About Parabens in Food Before?

There was one study in Food and Chemical Toxicology that argued the parabens in food are non-estrogenic in mice, whereas those in cosmetics were mildly so. However, there is research to indicate that these parabens are getting into our system somewhere.  Considering that only up to 60% of the small amount of parabens allowed in skin care and cosmetics is absorbed - and accumulates for only up to 3 days - I'm suspicious that we need to start questioning the parabens in our food more.

Bottom Line

The scientific community clearly needs to investigate parabens in food more.  However, if you have pledged to be on the safe side and avoid parabens in your skincare and cosmetics, be sure to avoid it in your food as well.  I'm personally now avoiding parabens in food, which are listed as methyl-, ethyl- and propyl p-hydroxybenzoate. What are your thoughts on parabens in food?
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Date: June 22 2012 at 8:20 AM
Ingredients, Q&A

Comments (9)

  1. Jess
    June 22 2012 at 10:09 AM

    Thanks for this post and telling what to look for on food labels. I try to limit the amount of processed foods I eat anyways (which is not always easy), but now I will def try to avoid these ingredients.

  2. Carla Hansson
    June 22 2012 at 10:30 AM

    I completely agree! How has no one questioned the Food Industry regarding all the "chemicals" used in food products? A direct route into your body. Topical cosmetics can only go so far into the epidermis/dermis, we've all read the data, we know the dose makes the poison and our skin is an excellent barrier. So why haven't food companies been scrutinized? Clearly something is happening to people's bodies-diseases, conditions, illness and it's not because of your shampoo or lotion.

  3. Nicki
    June 22 2012 at 10:49 AM

    @Jess - You're welcome - So glad you liked the post!

  4. Nicki
    June 22 2012 at 10:50 AM

    @Claudia - I couldn't agree more. The more I think about it, the more I think that parabens from food have to be a major concern. Think about it: how many times to people overeat food from a package, versus how many times you apply far more than a typical dose of skin care? Plus, the FDA allows 0.10% parabens in food, versus 0.025% in skin care and cosmetics. Add in the fact that you absorb more chemicals from food than transdermally, and I think this is a significant issue indeed.

  5. Cara
    June 22 2012 at 11:43 AM

    Good points here, both in the post and peoples' comments. All the more reason to really get to and stick to a natural, unprocessed diet. Basically, if something comes in a box, can, or bottle(save for something extremely simple and straightforward)it's not fit to eat. People often say that this or that is in "everything" but the fact of the matter is that a lot of people in the US spend most of their food dollars on processed foods, so the baddies are in "everything" that they in fact are eating, whereas if they switched to a lot more fresh foods, etc. their health would improve and much less exposure to parabens and other things of concern. Eating out a lot isn't too good of an idea because one usually has no idea what kind of processing, etc. goes into what comes to one's table, plus the fact that one is getting 3x what one needs to eat in the first place. DIY, for as much as one can. Yes, it takes some more time in the kitchen, but personally I'd rather spend time in the kitchen than in a doctor's waiting room on account of food-caused chronic disease. Just some thoughts here!

  6. Moxie
    June 22 2012 at 12:52 PM

    Scary! I don't want to purchase skincare and cosmetics that have parabens in them; definitely don't want parabens in my food, either!! Thank you for the post, Nicki!

  7. Nina
    August 11 2012 at 4:46 AM

    Thank you for this article. I HAVE to avoid parabens in skin care products because my skin rejects parabens in the form of a rash. That tells me something is definitely wrong with putting parabens on my skin. I used to hate the fact that I was allergic, now I know that my body is telling me there is definitely something wrong with topical parabens. I guess I have my own research going. Now that I know it's in certain foods as well, I can avoid those to. However, my diet is largely organic products.

  8. TN Girl
    August 22 2012 at 10:34 AM

    Just a quick side note: Methyl-paraben occurs NATURALLY in Blueberries. Regardless of "organic" or not. And we know how EXTREMELY beneficial blueberries are for health, mental, and skin conditions. Moderation is key in everything.

  9. Joa
    July 3 2013 at 1:51 AM

    Parabens occur naturally in a lot of the food we eat. Organic honey, maple syrup, vinegar, olive oil, sugar, raisins, peanut butter, wine etc. They are "self-preserving" and contain no additional preservatives because they naturally have parabens in them. I can't understand why avoid parabens in our cosmetics while we love eating all of it. And the birth control pills! If women want to avoid estrogen mimickers, you just can't take them... they are FAR stronger than the simple parabens in our cosmetics.

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