Fact Check: Instant Noodles, TBHQ Are NOT Dangerous In Moderation

Fact Check

  • by: Marlo Lee
Fact Check: Instant Noodles, TBHQ Are NOT Dangerous In Moderation Fear-Mongering

Are packaged noodles unhealthy? Will the chemical tertiary butylhydroquinone (TBHQ) cause diseases if ingested? No, the claims made in this video exaggerate risks and instant noodles can be eaten in moderation, a registered dietician told Lead Stories. A retired chemistry consultant added that TBHQ is found in nature and he would not stop eating ramen noodles just because it contains the chemical.

The claim appeared in a TikTok that was turned into an Instagram post on July 12, 2022, with the caption:

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The video opened with:

Stop feeding your kids these prepackaged noodles. They're unhealthy.

Here is what the Instagram post looked like at the time of writing:

Screen Shot 2022-07-15 at 12.39.10 PM.png

(Source: Instagram screenshot taken on Fri Jul 15 16:39:40 2022 UTC)

The video goes on to list several claims about packaged noodles. The one we will focus on is: These noodles contain a chemical called TBHQ. The chemical is an antioxidant used to reduce spoilage in a wide variety of food products.

TBHQ is shorthand for tertiary butylhydroquinone. The video claims that it's used to make the noodles last for a long time but that it can lead to liver enlargement, neurotoxic effects, convulsions and paralysis.

Lisa R. Young is a registered dietician who has been in private practice for almost 30 years. Young told us in a July 15, 2022, email that instant ramen noodles may contain TBHQ, as it is a food additive, but that the effects listed in the video would only be seen if TBHQ was eaten in large amounts on a regular basis. This TikTok claim is excessive, she said. Eat instant ramen noodles in moderation or skip them altogether because they contain a lot of salt, refined carbohydrates and little nutritional value, she advised. She ended the email with a precaution for Internet food claims:

Rule of thumb -- don't believe everything you see on Instagram and TikTok. And get facts from registered dietitians, not people who call themselves influencers.

Mark Jones, Ph.D., a retired chemistry consultant, told Lead Stories in a July 15, 2022, email that TBHQ is found in nature. Regulators have concluded that low doses of the chemical pose no significant acute or chronic risk, he said:

Those experts that have examined the risks, fully aware of the hazards, concluded the risks are acceptable for use. Those that desire eating food containing ingredients that pose no hazards will find their choices severely limited, if not close to nonexistent.

Jones himself is not a big ramen noodle consumer but said that if he were, he would not stop due to TBHQ.

More Lead Stories articles debunking instant noodles claims can be found here.

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Marlo Lee is a fact checker at Lead Stories. She is a graduate of Howard University with a B.S. in Biology. Her interest in fact checking started in college, when she realized how important it became in American politics. She lives in Maryland.

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