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Propylparaben: An Ingredient Worth a Second Look

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Last Updated on December 23, 2023 by Max

Welcome to the Thirteenth Part of Our Food Safety Series

In our continued exploration of food safety double standards, we turn our attention to Propylparaben, a widely used chemical in food and cosmetic products. Known for its preservative qualities, Propylparaben’s potential as an endocrine disruptor poses significant health concerns. This segment discusses its role, the associated risks of hormonal imbalances and reproductive health issues, and the contrasting regulatory stances of the EU and the U.S.

Propylparaben, a common ingredient in various products, from food to cosmetics, is a type of paraben – a family of chemicals often used for preservative properties. They prevent the growth of bacteria and mold, extending the shelf life of many products we use daily (Darbre & Harvey, 2008).

However, propylparaben has been flagged as a potential endocrine disruptor that can interfere with our hormonal systems. Studies suggest that it may mimic the hormone estrogen in our bodies, potentially leading to hormonal imbalances and reproductive health issues (Boberg et al., 2010). Some research also points to a potential link between parabens and breast cancer, although more research is needed to confirm these findings (Darbre et al., 2004).

In the EU, due to these potential health risks, the use of propylparaben in food products has been banned since 2014 (European Food Safety Authority [EFSA], 2014). However, in the U.S., the FDA currently considers propylparaben safe for use in food based on available research (U.S. Food and Drug Administration [FDA], 2018).
This is another example of the differing approaches to food safety between the EU and the U.S. It raises crucial questions about the balance between preserving our food and health.

What are your thoughts on using substances like propylparaben in our food and other products? Do you check labels for ingredients like these?


As we conclude our discussion on Propylparaben, the differing approaches of the EU and U.S. towards its use in food products come into sharp focus. This contrast highlights critical consumer safety issues and the balance between food preservation and health. What are your views on the inclusion of substances like Propylparaben in everyday products? Do these concerns influence your purchasing decisions and how you view food safety?


  • Darbre, P.D., & Harvey, P.W. (2008). Paraben Esters: Review of Recent Studies of Endocrine Toxicity, Absorption, Esterase and Human Exposure, and Discussion of Potential Human Health Risks. Journal of Applied Toxicology, 28(5), 561-578.
  • Boberg, J., et al. (2010). Reproductive and Developmental Toxicity of Parabens in Mammals. Reproductive Toxicology, 30(2), 307-315.
  • Darbre, P.D., et al. (2004). Concentrations of Parabens in Human Breast Tumours. Journal of Applied Toxicology, 24(1), 5-13.
  • European Food Safety Authority (EFSA). (2014). Scientific Opinion on the Re-Evaluation of Propyl 4-Hydroxybenzoate (E 216) as a Food Additive. EFSA Journal, 12(4), 3649.
  • U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). (2018). Parabens in Cosmetics. Washington, D.C.: FDA.

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