What the Heck is THIS Doing in Your Salad Dressing?

what the heck is THIS doing in your salad dressing?

You know how occasionally you have an Ah-Ha moment and it’s so profound that you make a decision right there and then to change something in your life?

Well, a few years ago I experienced just that on a cold winter morning while my family and I were sitting on an airplane waiting to undock from the terminal. The pilot came over the intercom and announced that the airplane had to undergo some de-icing as the wings had some light frost on them. We all pressed our noses to the window to watch (cuz frankly there’s not much else to do while you’re cramped in an airplane awaiting take off). The trucks came and a guy in an automatic ladder type apparatus sprayed down the wings with some colored liquid. One accidental glance at the truck and my mouth dropped. It said Propylene GlycolTHIS WAS THE VERY INGREDIENT THAT WAS IN MY FAVORITE SALAD DRESSING!

What is Propylene Glycol?

You ready for this? According to the CDC, Propylene glycol is a synthetic, colorless, odorless liquid substance that absorbs water. It is used to make polyester compounds, and as a base for deicing solutions. It is used by the chemical, food, and pharmaceutical industries.The FDA has classified propylene glycol as an additive that is “generally recognized as safe” for use in food.

Awww.. Doesn’t that make you feel like someone’s really looking out for your health? NOT! You Europeans don’t have to worry AS much, because your people in charge seem to have a slightly better grasp of reality. In the EU propylene glycol is limited to mostly non-food uses and when permitted it may only constitute 0.1-0.3% of a food product for human consumption (not perfect but better).

What’s it Used for?

Propylene glycol, like carrageenan is a multi faceted additive – it wears many hats. It is used:

  • as a solvent and carrier of flavour or colour in drinks, biscuits, cakes, sweets
  • as a thickener, clarifier and stabilizer in beer, salad dressings or baking mixtures
  • to keep animal feed moist 
  • as a common diluent in injectable medications
  • to manufacture plastics, resins, paints, aircraft de-icers, liquid detergents
  • as a skin conditioning agent
  • as a lubricant for condoms
  • as a coolant and antifreeze

Does it Go By Any Other Name?

You bet!


Side Effects?

The FDA recognizes propylene glycol as ‘safe’ although it acknowledges that it has been known to cause nephrotoxicity (a poisonous effect on the kidneys) and renal failure in high doses. Children below 4 years of age, pregnant women and those with kidney dysfunction are particularly vulnerable as they cannot adequately eliminate propylene glycol from the body. This is demonstrated by a documented case of propylene glycol poisoning of an 8 month old who was being treated topically for 3rd degree burns. The product that was being applied contained high amounts of propylene glycol. Propylene glycol toxicity can also cause/affect:

  • the cardiovascular system
  • the central nervous system
  • seizures and seizure disorders
  • cardiomyopathies

Topically, propylene glycol is added to lotions and creams because it allows the products to penetrate deep within the skin, which of course raises concern that it can reach the bloodstream.  According to the proprietary site propylene-glycol.com “when fed with propylene glycol containing feed, cats show an increase in Heinz body formation, which are deformities of erythrocytes and shorten the life time of the red blood cells.  This effect is unique to cats.”

Where is it found? lotion


  • shampoo, deodorant, antipersperant, skin care lotion, cosmetics, toothpaste, mouth wash, sunscreen, baby wipes
  • condoms
  • room deodorizers
  • e-cigarettes
  • leather conditioner and auto care products
  • anti freeze and hydrualic fluid products
  • medication


Salad Dressing and Sauces
  • „Hidden Valley Light Original Ranch Salad Dressing
  • Various Kraft salad dressing including Ranch, Creamy Italian, Golden Caesar, Blue Cheese etc…
  • Wishbone Salad Dressings
  • French’s Gourmayo Wasabi Horseradish condiment etc…
  • K.C. Masterpiece Steakhouse Marinade and Garlic & Herb Marinade
  • McCormick Golden Dipt Fat Free Tartar Sauce
  • Fast Food Chain Sauces and Dips
  • etc…
Baked Goods  

  • Betty Crocker Muffin and cake mixes
  • Duncan Hines cake mixes
  • Hostess Cupcakes
  • Pillsbury Moist Supreme Cake Mixes
  • Sweet and Low Yellow Snack Cake Mix
  • Various brands of Vanilla, Almond etc.. extracts and flavorings
  • Various brands of icings
  • McDonald’s Hotcakes, bagels etc…
  • etc…


  • Taco Bell products
  • French’s French Fried Onions
  • Sucrets throat losenges
  • Dog food
Ice cream
  • Blue Bunny ‘Sweet Freedom’ Snack Size Vanilla Ice Cream Cones
  • Nestle Ice Cream Sandwich
  • etc…
Artificial Sweeteners
  • Mio Water Enhancer
Flavored Coffee Beans
  • Various
Dried fruit
  • Various
  •  Check your labels
  • A more exhaustive list is available here

So…the moral of the story? I venture to say that a minuscule amount of propylene glycol probably isn’t going to kill you, but I’m more concerned with cumulative effects and limited studies done on it considering its vast use. By eating real, whole food you can easily bypass this nastiness and any potential side effects.  



Propylene Glycol

Environmental Working Group


Natural News  

Photo Credit




I’ve also shared this post with these other wonderful bloggers: This Gal Cooks, Say Not Sweet Anne, Uncommon Designs, Huckleberry Love, Confessions of a Stay at Home Mom, Nourishing Treasures, Natural Living Mamma, What Joy is Mine, Flour me with Love, Homegrown and Healthy, Homemaker on a Dime, I Gotta Try That, Skip to my Lou, Our 4 Kiddos, Our Table for Seven, Mandy’s Recipe Box, An Oregon Cottage, Not Just a Housewife, A Humble Bumble, Kelly the Kitchen Kop, The NY Melrose Family, This Silly Girl’s Life, Tessa Domestic Diva, Gastronomical Sovereignty, Holistic Squid, Mama Buzz, Thank Your Body, My Cultured Palate, Domesblissity, Miz Helen’s Country Cottage, Recipes for my Boys, Live Laugh Rowe, Ann Kroeker, Food Renegade, Not Your Ordinary Recipes, All our Days, xoxo Rebecca, The Veggie Nook, Joy in my Kitchen

  • BB

    I can’t believe how many products that this ingredient is in. The other day I was at the pharmacy and picked up a box of pain reliever for children, I turned it over to read the ingredients and not only was I shocked but horrified of what it contained. Proplene glycol amongst other non edible ingredients were listed. It just goes to show of how important is is to read labels.

    • eatplaylovemore

      Definitely BB. I totally agree. I think once you really pay attention to labels you’ll notice that additives like this are more prevalent than we think. Thanks for stopping by!

  • BB

    I wasn’t able to post this before but here is the side of a box of children’s tylenol. Besides all the other crap that’s in there you can clearly see that propylene glycol is listed. I think more parents need to read ingredients. Thanks for another great article!

  • Becca

    Crazy stuff! Pretty gross to think of what is in the products we consume. :/ Thanks for sharing!

  • suzy supnet

    Great post and great research. I totally agree. It is not about the tiny amount that may be in the salad dressing. It is about the cumulative affect. Pinning to help spread the word!

    • eatplaylovemore

      Thank you for the kind words Suzy. I really think that many people just don’t read labels because they trust in our food system…sad to say that’s misplaced trust. Thanks for spreading the word.

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  • Toni

    This is so nasty! I had no idea. I have to share this with everyone!

  • Gracie Remo

    The questionable oils also used in these dressings is one of the main reasons I stopped buying these things. If we don’t stop buying them, these companies will keep producing them. I’m a huge believer in voting with your dollar.

    • a

      Plus making your own salad dressing is easy and cheap!

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  • JM

    This article is an example of poor reasoning and chemical phobia. Salt is used as a de-icer on roads, and salt solutions can be used as antifreeze. If you stopped eating salt completely you would die. Propylene glycol is less toxic than table salt.

    Some things may have more than one use. You are very much barking up the wrong tree here with propylene glycol. It is very non toxic. The high doses you cite for negative effects are not applicable for levels seen in food exposure. You would have to drink pure propylene glycol or inject it to reach those levels (hence the EU limits). If you were to eat several 5 lbs of table salt, you would die. See how the dose makes the poison? The LD50 oral toxicity of table salt is 3 g per kg of body weight in rat studies. The same toxicity level for propylene glycol is 20 g per kg of body weight in rats.

    You say to stay away from this because there are no studies of long term
    effects. A rat study was done where they were fed 5% propylene glycol
    for 104 weeks with no negative effects.

    Your own quotation about ill effects in cats says that the effects such as Heinz bodies are unique to cats. Chocolate is bad for dogs. Are you going to stop eating this terrible poison called chocolate?

    Salt is much more of a killer and problem with processed foods than propylene glycol. I agree that we should eat more fresh fruits and vegetables than processed foods due to high amounts of fats, salts, and sugars in processed foods. Do things for the right reasons backed up by evidence rather than chemical phobias.