In a recent study conducted by a Texas university, high amounts of a toxic flame retardant chemical were found in butter samples. For more information on where researchers believe the contamination came from and what this means for your health, keep on reading after the jump.


In random butter samples taken from Dallas grocery stores, scientists researching chemical contamination in processed foods found dangerously high doses of flame retardant chemicals known as PBDEs.

Polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs) are a class of toxic chemicals that are commonly used in flame retardants in electronics, on fabrics, and in insulation. It has been shown to be extremely harmful in animals, causing cancer, disruptions in thyroid hormones, and reproductive, developmental, and neurological problems.

The study, which was conducted by the University of Texas School of Public Health in Dallas, took 10 random samples of brand-name butter from a grocery store and found that all of the samples contained some kind of chemical contamination, but that one of the samples had 135 times the level of PBDEs than the other samples, with especially high levels of a PBDE known as deca-BDE. The source of the contamination appeared to be the wrapper, because the wrapper of the contaminated butter contained almost 16 times the amount of PBDEs than the butter itself.

The findings of the study were published in Environmental Health Perspectives this month, and researchers are calling for stricter monitoring of chemical food contamination. The Senate has recently past legislation giving the FDA more power to control food contamination, however the bill only covers bacterial contamination, not chemical.

It is believed that the contamination is a result of a fire or mechanical malfunction that transferred high levels of PBDE from the packaging machinery to the packaging itself, which was them transferred to the butter. However, since chemical contaminations are not regulated or monitored, it is difficult to tell when or how much butter may have been contaminated.

What does this mean for your health? It is tough to say, since it is unknown how many butter samples contain dangerous levels of PBDEs, but researchers are guessing it is probably a lot.

“Think of all the butter in the United States, and if in just 10 samples, you find one, that is super-high,” said Mike McClean, an environmental health researcher at the Boston University School of Public Health. “I don’t think they stumbled upon an isolated incident. I personally think you could go take 10 samples of lots of different types of foods and probably find something similar.”

Scientists connected to the report are pushing for higher regulations and testing of chemical contamination in the foods we eat to prevent such an outbreak in the future, because this is the first contamination thought to be caused by packaging, and is the largest PBDE contamination ever. No recalls have been issued yet.

What do you think of the flame retardant butter contamination? Are you worried about eating contaminated foods? Leave us a comment and let is know, and check out this video about the harm PBDEs can cause the environment.