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Terrifying Ingredients in Your Child’s Lunchbox

By Sara Butler

The foods you are sending to school with your child may be a little more frightening than you realize. There are all kinds of ingredients that you should be on the lookout for in the highly processed and premade lunches marketed to children. Here are just a few to put on your parent radar!


TBHQ is lighter fluid. Yes, lighter fluid! It is used as a preservative in cheap, oily and fatty food products in order to lengthen their shelf life. It’s often sprayed on food or on the packaging in order to prevent changes to color or flavor. The Food and Drug Administration has approved its use since small doses seem safe and it doesn’t build up in your body over time, but that doesn’t mean it’s necessarily safe. Certainly, avoiding the high fat and oily foods they are used on is a good choice for your child’s health.


The gummies that children love to eat contain gelatin and gelatin contains MSG. Some people have reactions to MSG which include:

  • Dizziness
  • Fatigue
  • Disorientation
  • Headaches
  • Depression

So, you may want to rethink the fruit snacks in the future.

Polysorbate 60

Polysorbate 60 is an emulsifying agent made from palm oil, corn, and petroleum. It is used to keep two substances in foods from separating. The kicker with Polysorbate 60 is it’s not just found in food, but also in motor oil, cleaning products, lubricants, cosmetics, shampoos, and lotions. This may be an ingredient you want to keep on the lookout for.

Caramel Color

You see this additive in a lot of things, from soda to ravioli. This additive can be a bit scary since there is some speculation it may be linked to some forms of cancer in humans. In a government study, caramel color was found to cause cancer in mice. What’s even more disturbing about it is the fact there’s no federal limit for it in beverages and food. California is the only state that requires manufacturers to label the caramel color in their foods with a cancer warning if it has a certain level of this ingredient in it. So, it may make sense to just steer clear of this one until more research can be done.

There are all kinds of things in food and drink you may not know about. Your best bet is to send food with your little one that isn’t highly processed or prepacked – the fewer ingredients the better!

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