Test: Unwanted chemicals in chewing gum

4. nov 2016

Chewing gum can contain two additives (BHA and BHT) that have shown endocrine disrupting effects in animal studies. 4 out of 5 chewing gums for kids receive lowest score in this test from the Danish Consumer Council THINK Chemicals.

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Test of Chewing Gum BHA BHT
Photo: Danish Consumer Council THINK Chemicals

Chewing gum: 55 good choices

The check of 157 packs of chewing gum shows the 1 in 3 packs are without BHA and BHT.

The Danish Consumer Council THINK Chemicals has looked at 157 different packs of chewing gum on the Danish market. The packs were checked to see if the chewing gum contained the additives BHA (E 320) and BHT (E 321). The two substances are preservative antioxidants which prolong the shelf life of the gum, but the substances have also shown endocrine disrupting effects in animal studies.

Chewing gum with BHA or BHT may not be a problem on its own, but scientists are worried about the effects from the total exposure of many unwanted chemicals from many sources in everyday life – what is known as the cocktail effect, which is not incorporated in current legislation.

Gum for kids: few choices without BHA and BHT

  • 4 out of 5 chewing gum for kids contain either BHA or BHT that have shown endocrine disrupting effects in animal studies.
  • 13 chewing gums for kids do not contain BHA or BHT. They primarily come from the brand Fini.

This is how we tested

The Danish Consumer Council THINK Chemicals bought the chewing gum in many different stores in the Copenhagen area.

We then checked the ingredients lists of the 157 packs of chewing gum to see if the gum contained the two additives BHA (E320) and BHT (E321). The additives are permitted for use in chewing gum, but have shown endocrine disrupting effects in animal studies and they are suspected of being a problem for humans as well.

The test is a check of the ingredients. This means we have looked at the ingredients list, we haven’t analyzed the content in a laboratory and therefore we do not know the quantities of the additives in the gum.

The evaluation:

  • Green flask – Good choice – does not contain BHA or BHT.
  • Red flask – Chewing gum we cannot recommend. They contain BHA or BHT.

What we found:

Red flask: 102 packs of chewing gum (65%) contain either BHA or BHT.

  • 15 contain BHA
  • 87 contain BHT

81% of the 69 packs of chewing gum for kids contain BHA or BHT.

Green flask: 55 packs of chewing gum (35%) do not contain BHA or BHT.

13 of the 69 (19%) packs of chewing gum for kids did not contain BHA or BHT.

Development in the market since the last check:

In June 2015 the Danish Consumer Council THINK Chemicals performed a similar check of 150 packs of gum and the result was that 60 percent contained either BHA or BHT.

The latest check shows that 65 percent of the chewing gum checked in October contains one of the two additives which is an increase of 5%.

Several brands (Mentos, V6, BigBabol and Flying Tiger) seem to have phased out BHA. The BHA has however been replaced by BHT and therefore we still cannot recommend the products.

Advice when choosing chewing gum:

1. Check to see if the gum contains the unwanted additives

  • Look for BHA and BHT in the ingredient list.
  • Look for the E-numbers E320 and E321. E320 is BHA, and E321 is BHT.

2. Choose regular gum instead of gum marketed for kids.

Most of the gum for kids (81%) contained either BHA or BHT.