How to eat healthy – Food Additives: Anti-Foaming Agents (Aka…silly putty?)

Yes, you read that right, silly putty.   I used to love to play with silly putty as a kid. Those of you from my generation (I grew up in the 70’s and 80’s) will remember buying and playing with silly putty.


One of my favorite things to do? Press some silly putty on against newspaper cartoons, would transfer the image from the paper to the silly putty.


Good times! Okay, we were easily amused back then. My point is, silly putty was fun to play with, but you don’t want to eat it! So, what does silly putty have to do with food additives and anti-foaming agents  and your food? Do you really want to know?

Below the Food Babe talks about the tie between silly putty and your food.

In the video she says.(3)..

  • Dimethylpolysioxane (That’s a mouth full!) is a type of silicone and anti-foaming agent, used industrially in caulks or sealants or even breast implants. and…You guessed it…it’s the key ingredient in silly putty!
  • It’s also the same chemical that fast food companies put in their deep fry oil to prevent it from foaming. So, it gets into the fries, chicken, and anything else that’s fried in the oil.
  • Fast food restaurants also put this chemical in fountain drinks, as well as  “phase oil”,  a butter substitute. (used by Dominoes Pizza to make their crust.)


So, just what is an anti-foaming agent? (or defoamer, as it’s known in the industry)(1, 3)

Anti-foaming agents stop foam from forming on the surface of liquids. Although used mainly in industrial applications, it is also added to food, for the same purpose. Many oils, silicon and wax agents are used. Some common defoamers include: butter, margarine, lard, corn oil, coconut oil, mineral oil, and vegetabe oil

There are five types of defoamers.

  • Oil Based Defoamers – These are considered the best, since they don’t mix with water. These break up any foam which may gather on the surface of the product. These oils also contain waxes, which increase the “efficiency” of the defoamer.
  • Silicon Based Defoamers – Silica is hydrophobic, or is repels/doesn’t mix with water, which prevents the foam from forming. These defoamers have emulsifiers added and are used mainly in oil refining. (And in fast food deep friers!)
  • Water Based Defoamers – Used in water treatment plants and paper manufacturing, these defoamers are typically mineral oils, vegetable oils, fatty acid soaps and esters.
  • Alkyl Based Defoamers – These agents are used for aerated products or something that will be released through the air and are delivered in a petroleum base
  • Powdered Anti Foaming Agents – These substances are oil based then added to a carrier like silica. These defoamers are typically seen industrially in powdered substances like cement, plaster or detergents.


The anti-foaming agents in your food:

  • Dimethylpolysiloxane – Discussed above. While there aren’t any definitive studies on the health and safety of this product, I really don’t think we were meant to eat silly putty.
  • Polysorbates – Known to contain toxins and can cause cancer in animals.They are known to contain harmful residues (ethylene oxide, ethylene glycols), which can increase the absorption of fat-dissolving substances, and modify the digestion of various substances. Mainly derived from petroleum Found in: cake mix, frozen dessert, salad dressing, doughnuts, foods with artificial chocolate coating, non-dairy whipped topping
  • propylene glycol –  Research from the Environmental Working Group, indicates the toxic load of this additive is low, though it has been known to have toxic effects on the blood at high does in laboratory animals
  • Sorbitan Monostearate – Not found to be deadly, though can cause liver enlargement in high doses. Found in: Candy, ice cream, flavored milk, bakery items, cake mix, icing, whipping cream, cake mixes, puddings, whipped vegetable-oil toppings, cookie coatings, solid-state edible vegetable fat, cream substitutes, coconut spread, beverages, confectionery and as a protective covering on fruits and vegetables.
  • Butyl or aluminum stearate– This is an salt attached to a fatty acid. It can cause skin, eye and lung irritation. For use in dairy (butyl) or beet/sugar and yeast (aluminum).
  • BHA – (Butylated Hydroxyanisole) -Evidence of causing cancer in experimental animals. May cause cancer in humans, although more research is needed. It has been banned in Japan and the UK.  Found in-lard, instant mashed potatoes, ice cream, baked goods, dry dessert mixes, shortening, cereal, potato flakes, chewing gum.
  • BHT – (Butylated Hydroxytoluene) -Known to cause cancer, kidney and liver damage, and birth defects in laboratory animals. May possibly convert other ingested substances into toxic or cancer-causing additives should be investigated. Found in: animals fats, chewing gum, potato flakes, shortening, enriched rice
  •  Hydroxlydated lecithin–  Health effects are unknown, though most are made from corn, soy or eggs and can be genetically modified or cause allergic reactions. Found in: Chocolate products, baked goods, frozen desserts, margarine, lard, cereal, candy, non-stick cooking spray.

Closing thoughts


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Research into anti-foaming agents is ongoing and, as of yet, has not discovered any deadly or particularly toxic side effects. This also means that these substances are being added to food, without knowing what long term effects they will have on the human body. Some studies have indicated that the very nature and properties of the anti-foaming agents, ultimately have detrimental effects on cells and the ability to produce proteins. (5) Whatever the case, it is clear we need more research.

That said, in most cases, these are man made chemicals which are unrecognizable to your body. Any substance, unrecognizable to the body, will have a toxic effect on the liver, whose job it is to cleanse the body of toxins. The liver then stores them away in fatty tissue. If the digestive system is poor or is leaky, these substances could get into the blood stream before properly stored away and will be attacked, leading to allergies, chronic disease or auto-immune disorders.


So it’s time to fall back to my same, age old advice. Stick to a whole food diet, consisting mainly of plants, from all colors of the rainbow. Buy organic, locally grown, pasture-raised food as often as possible. Except for the occasional treat, stay away from fast food and refined/processed food. Then, you won’t have anything to worry about!

Namaste my friends.



  6. Winter, Ruth. A Consumer’s Dictionary of Food Additives, 7th Edition: Descriptions in Plain English of More Than 12,000 Ingredients Both Harmful and Desirable Found in Foods. Crown/Archetype. Kindle Edition.


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