Flame Retardants Found In Butter

I can’t believe it’s not butter! Well, it’s not. It’s flame retardant, and food researchers found it inside butter they bought from the supermarket.

The polybrominated diphenyl ethers, or PBDEs, are found in gadgets and insulation, and have been shown to be harmful to humans.

The chemical appears to have entered the butter through the wrapper.

“Flame retardants were not made to be eaten. They’re made to slow down the smoke in fires. They’re not a food component. They don’t belong there,” said researcher Schecter. “Either the paper was contaminated before it reached the butter factory, or somehow it managed to get contaminated at the factory itself.”

Only one stick of butter out of the 10 purchased during the test was found to have the extremely high levels of the chemical.

The study’s authors said the butter came from a large, well-known Midwestern company, but wouldn’t identify which one. Both the researchers and the National Milk Producers Federation noted the limited scope of the test and recommended further investigation before drawing overarching conclusions.

Contamination of U.S. Butter with PBDEs from Wrapping Paper (Abstract) (PDF)
Study: Flame retardant found in small butter sample [CNN] (Thanks to Shawna!)


Edit Your Comment

  1. McRib wants to know if you've been saved by the Holy Clown says:

    It’s a safety feature. Keeps people from starting grease fires while they brown butter.

  2. Lexasaurus says:

    Of course, it could also be getting into the butter through contamination of the cows’ environment. Considering that they’ve found these chemicals in human breast milk, that seems pretty likely. And why should butter wrappers be flame retardant anyway? I thought they were wax paper.

  3. SonarTech52 says:

    They could rub this butter on the tent from yesterdays article…

  4. evilpete says:

    Most likely the paper was recycled and was treated for its previous use

  5. Cicadymn says:

    I can’t think of a better way to fight….wait for it….wait for it….HEARTBURN!

    *Buh dum tish*

  6. Applekid ┬──┬ ノ( ゜-゜ノ) says:

    I’m in favor of any chemical that reduces my chances of spontaneously combusting.

    • Not a Fan Boy says:

      The amount of flame retardants in our environment is a big part of why I general dismiss stories of spontaneous human combustion as bogus.

  7. guymandude says:

    Where have you guys been? My boy Dr. Robert Hale at the Virginia Institute of Marine Sciences has been on this problem for over 10 years. http://www.vims.edu/people/hale_rc/index.php
    Goto the bottom of the page and read the section on the research groups activities. Not only is this stuff in butter but it’s in fish, sewage sludges (that are often applied to farm land as fertilizer) and even human breast milk.

  8. kt says:

    Talk about making a mountain out of nothing! They say they found this in 1 stick of butter just one and they were only testing 10 sticks so this is not a scientific study and there is no way of knowing what happened to that one stick or eeven what the testing methods were. If they had gone on and tested thousands of samples and found 1 in 10 contaminated it would be news, this not so much.

    • guymandude says:

      Dude.. I was involved in this research a few years back. It’s a problem.. a big problem and if you think a single instance of 10% contamination is of no concern then you’re a moron. Perhaps it would be better if you looked in the research literature where you will find that, depending on where you get your butter from, the contamination levels can vary between slight to toxic. So yes.. you’re quite right. A line of any slope can be drawn through a single data point. Maybe you should open your eyes and look at the other data points instead of implying that there aren’t any(which is demonstrably wrong if you spend 15 whole seconds looking on google). Since you feel that the scientific standard you criticize is unacceptably vague perhaps it would be a good idea if the first thing you didn’t do was exactly what it is you’re complaining about.

    • The cake is a lie! says:

      Not only that, but why report it at all if you aren’t going to name the brand? Personally, if something like this is happening with a brand I use, I’d like to know about it so I can stop using it until I hear it is fixed. It is alarmist articles like this which do way more damage than good. You can’t even say it is raising awareness. Unless I have a chemistry lab in my kitchen and want to test every food I consume for something nasty, then I would rather not even know that some random food in my fridge may be waiting to make me sick.

    • ttw1 says:

      Unless you were the one who bought that stick.

    • jessjj347 says:

      They probably want to cause a stir in order receive funding to do research ;)

    • Murph1908 says:

      Right. And the article states that.

      It’s is why the article states that more subsantive tests need to be done.

      It’s why the article doesn’t name the company yet, since this preliminary test doesn’t prove anything.

  9. Thassodar says:

    Well that’ll surely slow down the cooking of pancakes(buttering the pan)…

  10. JennyCupcakes misses her grandson says:

    Don’t care. Still eating it. Nom.

  11. PunditGuy says:

    Make your own butter at home. Seriously, you should. Find cream that’s on sale and whip it. Whip it good.

  12. shawnamuffin says:

    Yay! I got thanked by Consumerist! My life is justified!

    But seriously, I go through a point of butter a week and *really* want to know what brand it is. Should we be sending butter wrappers to labs?

  13. ElleAnn says:

    I make my own butter at home, using a mason jar and a class of first graders.

  14. Loias supports harsher punishments against corporations says:

    Thanks for not telling me the brand. I’ll switch to margarine.

  15. Taed says:

    Bottled water found to contain nearly 100% of a certain flame retardant chemical! Details on News at 11!

  16. Simon Barsinister says:

    Every week I read something like this and feel good knowing all of my food comes from a local farm.

    • guymandude says:

      What makes you think your local farm is safe? As I said, sewage sludges are often applied to farm land as fertilizer and sewage sludges are eat up with this stuff. Find out what “NutriGreen” is and what “Milorganite” is.

  17. theycallmeGinger says:

    “Flame retardants were not made to be eaten. They’re made to slow down the smoke in fires.”

    By far, the most informative statement in the article.

  18. Duckula22 says:

    [quote]The study’s authors said the butter came from a large, well-known Midwestern company, but wouldn’t identify which one.[/quote]

    In that case you might want to remove the catchy line (ICn’tBINB) just so you won’t get a phone call from their lawyers due to the negative association with that article by using that line. You know, it’s insane times we live in, you may really get a phone call, seriously.

  19. StutiCebriones says:

    If it’s the stick Marlon Brando used, they could have found worse.

  20. Sparty999 says:

    Hmmm… large midwesterm dairy… maybe Land O Lakes?

    • kc2idf says:

      The study’s authors said the butter came from a large, well-known Midwestern company, but wouldn’t identify which one.

      For some reason, this makes me want to LOL . . .

  21. gitmo234 says:

    Di-hydrogen monoxide is a flame retardant as well and is found in almost every single thing. Lakes, streams, etc. It’s a major component of acid rain, accelerates corrosion in metals, etc. We should ban it

    • Simon Barsinister says:

      You neglected to mention Di-HydrogenMonoxide is directly responsible for thousands of deaths due to inhalation (in large enough quantities).

      • shepd says:

        The worst thing is the addictive qualities of the substance. Once you take it, you have to keep doing it regularly–you’re so hooked you’ll die if you don’t stop!

  22. human_shield says:

    This is why I buy my butter-oil in big plastic tubs.

  23. Hoss says:

    This must be why Paula Dean’s hair don’t burn

  24. shepd says:

    Salt is a flame retardant…


  25. Rantaholic says:

    “The study’s authors said the butter came from a large, well-known Midwestern company, but wouldn’t identify which one.”

    I’m glad we still put potential loss of profit before potential loss of life while we verify that the chemicals are not in EVERY stick of butter…