You may have heard the news: Fireball whisky has been recalled in Finland and Sweden because it contains too much propylene glycol.
Sounds scary, right? But what exactly is propylene glycol?
This chemical additive is used in tons of consumer products, from ice cream (keeps it from forming ice crystals, which technically makes it an antifreeze) to pills (smooths their surface so they’re easier to swallow) to baby wipes (because who knows!).
Should we be concerned that it’s in our food? Not necessarily, according to the FDA. In the U.S., alcoholic beverages can contain up to 5 percent propylene glycol, candy and frosting up to 24 percent, and seasonings and flavorings can contain up to 97 percent of the stuff (yeah, not weirded out by that one at all…).
However, the European Union has tighter restrictions on the amount of propylene glycol that can be used in food, and so Finland and Sweden have recalled Fireball whisky, which is made to meet North American regulations.
In my opinion, just because we technically can safely consume it doesn’t mean we should. Listen to the FDA’s description of how it’s made:
“Propylene glycol (C3H8O2, CAS Reg. No. 57-55-6) is known as 1,2-propanediol. It does not occur in nature. Propylene glycol is manufactured by treating propylene with chlorinated water to form the chlorohydrin which is converted to the glycol by treatment with sodium carbonate solution. It is also prepared by heating glyercol with sodium hydroxide.”
Sound yummy? Not so much!
This reminds me of the panic over the “yoga mat” ingredient found in Subway bread — azodicarbonamide, a chemical bleaching agent and dough conditioner used in a lot of commercial breads as well as in yoga mats, sneakers and synthetic leather.
A lot of people thought it was an overreaction to call for the banning of the ingredient. And maybe it was; after all, in small quantities, the FDA says it’s safe to consume. But I know I feel a lot better making my own bread or buying organic, all-natural items with an ingredient list I can identify and pronounce, and I feel the same way about propylene glycol. I’ll suffer through plain whiskey and ice crystals in my frozen desserts any day.