Propylene glycol is an organic chemical compound nobody talked much about until recently, when Fireball Cinnamon Whisky was pulled off the shelves in three Scandinavian countries for containing too much of the ingredient to meet European Union standards. The chemical is used as a solvent and as the primary ingredient in non-toxic antifreeze and as the "e-liquid" in e-cigarettes. Propylene glycol is considered safe by the FDA in small quantities, although it can be toxic in large doses. And it’s more common than you think. It’s widely used in food and drink products as a thickener and preservative, or to add a little bit of sweetness.
Though the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has assured us that it would be virtually impossible to ingest toxic amounts of the compound through consumer products, in large doses, propylene glycol poisoning might cause skin irritation or itchiness and redness, and acute levels of exposure might could cause cardiovascular or neurotoxilogical issues.
Toxic or not, we thought you might like to know whether this solvent and antifreeze is hiding in products you eat and drink. The Daily Meal dug up seven of the most common foods and beverages that contain propylene glycol.
Flavored Iced Teas
The world may run on Dunkin’, but Dunkin’ Donuts flavored iced tea runs on propylene glycol. Here, the ingredient is likely used to bump up sweetness. The good news is that the regular variety of iced tea at Dunkin’ has zero prop-gly in it. Nestea “flavored liquid water enhancers” also have propylene glycol, but Lipton’s do not.
Most vanilla varieties don’t include propylene glycol. But if you want to be sure not to ingest any propylene glycol, avoid Blue Bunny cones of any flavor or Edy’s peppermint ice cream. Coldstone Creamery serves 17 different ice cream varieties in all locations that include prop-gly.
In most frosting varieties like Betty Crocker, you’ll find propylene glycol hiding inside, likely as a thickener.
Boxed Cake Mix
Commercial Food Coloring
If you’re making your own cake from scratch, you may want to avoid most mainstream artificial colorings, like McCormick’s assorted food dyes, where propylene glycol is listed as the second ingredient after water.
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Joanna Fantozzi is an Associate Editor with The Daily Meal. Follow her on Twitter @JoannaFantozzi