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Why your peanut butter won't ignite: Flame retardant found in food

Photo by Bill Keaggy via Flickr Creative Commons

No wonder it's so difficult to burn calories. The flame retardant HBCD has been detected in a sampling of fatty foods, according to a new study by researchers at the University of Texas School of Public Health.

HBCD (or, hexabromocyclododecane), an ingredient of polystyrene foam used in insulation and consumer products, was found in a variety of lipid rich foods like poultry, fish, beef and peanut butter.

Researchers tested non-organic, grocery store food purchased in the Dallas area in 2009 and 2010. Detectable levels the toxic mixture was found in nearly half of the study's samples.

The commercial flame retardant is an ongoing concern for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency:

HBCD is found world-wide in the environment and wildlife. It is also found in human breast milk, adipose tissue, and blood. It bioaccumulates in living organisms and biomagnifies in the food chain. It is persistent in the environment and is transported long distances.

HBCD is highly toxic to aquatic organisms. It also presents human health concerns based on animal test results indicating potential reproductive, developmental and neurological effects.

The study, published in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives, concludes that a larger, "more representative sampling" should be conducted.

Lisa Brenner can be reached via Twitter @lisa_brenner