What The Heck? Does Children’s Cereal Contain Paint Thinner?

Thomas Nelson | HigherPerspective

A new story has been making its rounds on Facebook – that is: breakfast cereals marketed to children contain paint thinner. What? Why the hell would they need to put paint thinner in cereal?

Here’s the scoop. Food safety activists spotted something on a label of Lucky Charms that didn’t sit well:


Trisodium Phosphate concerns escalated late in 2014. The image above began circulating over social media in force, with the cereal box and the cleaning agent juxtaposed. Naturally, people freaked out.

While TSP is a great cleaning agent, but as Snopes points out:

It is true that trisodium phosphate is effective as a cleaning agent, due in part to its alkalinity. Sodium bicarbonate is a similarly scary-sounding chemical compound used in heavy-duty cleaning, as an agent to detarnish silver, and to extinguish fires. But you cannot make chocolate chip cookies without the leavening power of baking soda, as it is more commonly known, and leavening is another common use for sodium phosphates. Similarly, water is a very common substance used for such tasks as cleaning, scrubbing silverware, and extinguishing fires, yet it poses no harm to consumers.

At the end of the day, the FDA has approved TSP as safe, and it also meets safety standards in the European Union. TSP in high concentrations can be used to clean your walls, but there’s a huge difference between TSP and paint thinner, which is typically comprised of turpentine, mineral spirits, and acetone – all chemically unrelated to TSP.

At the end of the day, it’s great that so many people wish to be aware of the potential dangers lurking in food, and labels like these can be fairly eye opening. But it’s important to educate ourselves about what the things listed on those labels actually are, especially before we rampage around the internet freaking out.

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