Some of your favorite ice cream flavors from Breyer's and Stone Cold Creamery contain propylene glycol because it helps prevent ice crystals from developing, while Corona Extra adds it to its beer. McDonald's uses it in its Big Mac, salad sauces, and bagels, and Tom's of Maine uses it as a base for its deodorants (OK, hopefully you're not eating your deodorant). And if you're smoking electronic cigarettes, propylene glycol is in the e-liquid that carries the nicotine, flavorings, and other additives, which are then heated, vaporized, and ingested.
A witch's brew
Propylene glycol is a colorless organic liquid that's manufactured by treating propylene with chlorinated water to form the chlorohydrin, which is then converted to the glycol, an alcohol, by treating it with a sodium carbonate solution.
According to the FDA, in alcoholic beverages, it shouldn't exceed 5% of the amount needed to achieve its desired effect, but no more than 24% for confections and frostings. In frozen dairy products it shouldn't be any more than 2.5%, yet it can go as high as 97% for seasonings and flavorings.
Though toxic to animals and humans if consumed in large enough quantities, industry trade groups that represent manufacturers like chemical giants Archer-Daniels Midland , BASF , and Dow Chemical say that since it's not available to consumers as a pure substance it's nearly impossible to actually ingest enough to be harmful.
You are what you eat
Beyond whether propylene glycol will actually kill you, the use of such unnatural ingredients in food and drink we're consuming should give us pause. Additives of all sorts have polluted the food chain, and a diet of processed foods such as those Americans are fond of eating is probably a greater health risk than the minuscule amounts of antifreeze we're consuming in a shot of whisky.
With all the engineering companies are performing on our food, propylene glycol is likely one of the more innocuous additives found therein. But if Fireball can make a recipe for Europe that doesn't contain the ingredient, why would it want to continue selling one in North America that does?
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The article FDA Says Antifreeze Ingredient Propylene Glycol Is Safe to Eat - Have You Had Your Fill Today? originally appeared on Fool.com.
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