- 6 foods legal in the US that are banned in other countries
- Beef: Synthetic growth hormones
- Colorful foods: Artificial dyes
- Soft drinks: Brominated vegetable oil (BVO)
- Cereal and bread: Azodicarbonamide (ADA)
- Poultry, water and more: Arsenic
- “Low fat” chips and more: Olestra
- Top 15 chemical additives in your food
- Join our free Weekly Newsletter!
- It’s true – most of the processed food in America is AWFUL and it’s not just the ingredients they use.
- Just last week, Europe banned the most popular fungicide used on American farms (chlorothalonil) due to human health and environmental concerns (3)
- This is yet another reminder why organic food is a safer choice… We may not have a choice as to what chemicals farmers are allowed to use, but WE DO have a choice in what food we are willing to buy.
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- Available in stores everywhere
- The Mountain Dew Ingredient Banned in 100 Countries
- 9 Food Ingredients Americans Love That Are Banned in Other Countries
- 1. Partially Hydrogenated Oil
- 2. Foods Containing Flame Retardants
- 3. Olean or Olestra in Fat-Free Foods
- 4. Caramel Coloring
- 5. RBGH in Dairy
- Food Additives to Avoid
- Artificial Sweeteners to Avoid
- Artificial Food Colorings to Avoid
- Natural beauty products that help you look + feel stunning!
- 11 Toxic Ingredients Banned in the EU, but not in the USA
- Why Are These Toxic Ingredients Legal in the United States?
- What can you do about it?
- Get familiar with ingredients banned in Europe
- Read labels
- Go natural
- So, in a nutshell…
- On Cosmetics Safety, U.S. Trails More Than 40 Nations
6 foods legal in the US that are banned in other countries
Ever noticed how ingredients on your packaged foods don’t always sound, well, like food?
Chances are, if the ingredient is not something you’d stock in your home kitchen, it’s a preservative or artificial additive to boost the flavor, color or texture of whatever you’re about to eat.
If you were cooking a recipe calling for an ingredient you didn’t like or had heard potentially dangerous information about, you would probably cut out that ingredient, right? Such a luxury doesn’t exist with packaged foods, though. In places like the European Union, legislature has banned additives that are potentially dangerous, while in the United States, the Food and Drug Administration is still totally cool with them.
When it comes to reading ingredient lists, perhaps the best advice comes from food scholar Michael Pollan, who wrote in The Omnivore’s Dilemma — and has since reiterated many, many times — don’t eat anything your great-grandmother wouldn’t recognize as food. Abstaining from the food Europeans don’t recognize as food may be another good rule to follow, because our foods are still full of ingredients banned across the pond.
Beef: Synthetic growth hormones
Cows on a farmJackie Johnston/AP
Synthetic growth hormones rBGH and rBST were approved for use in cows by the FDA in 1993 and the federal agency hasn’t looked back. Not only do dairy cows injected with these hormones suffer from significant health problems (some of which are treated by administering antibiotics to the cows) and birth defects due to the hormones, but products for human consumption from rBGH and rBST cows do not need to be labeled as such. The European Commission banned hormones in livestock in 1981 and continues to not allow them.
Colorful foods: Artificial dyes
Food dyes like Yellow 5, Yellow 6 and Red 40, used to make unappealing food look more edible and enticing, have been found to cause hyperactivity in otherwise healthy children and carry allergy and cancer risks as well. The FDA approves the use of color additives in food, despite the fact these additives can also make unhealthy foods look appealing (think rainbow candies and red-tinted salmon flesh) and carry additional health risks. Many American food companies remove their dyes in overseas products, like M&M sold in the E.U., opting for natural coloring, but keep the dyes in the products for American consumers. In 2015, Kraft removed its Yellow 5 and Yellow 6 dyes from its iconic orange macaroni and cheese dinner in favor of natural coloring agents like paprika and annatto, setting a new standard for American food producers to cut the dyes from their products.
Soft drinks: Brominated vegetable oil (BVO)
Mountain Dew, pictured in 2014, still has BVO in its ingredients list circa 2017Jeff Chiu/AP
Banned in places like Europe and Japan, BVO is a totally acceptable ingredient for Americans to ingest in their sodas and soft drinks. But what is BVO exactly? It’s a chemical derived from vegetable oil that keeps citrus flavoring from separating in packaged beverages. Overexposure to bromine and brominated chemicals has been linked to memory loss and nerve disorders, though BVO is used in such small quantities in beverages, no conclusive studies have yet found its direct correlation with health disorders. In 2014, Coca-Cola and PepsiCo both vowed to remove BVO from their ingredients lists, in favor of more natural ingredients, but the FDA still considers BVO a safe ingredient. And, Mountain Dew still has brominated vegetable oil in its ingredients list as of February 2017. Here’s another place you’ll find BVO: Flame retardant.
Cereal and bread: Azodicarbonamide (ADA)
Subway vowed to cut out ADA in 2014 after national uproar about the so-called yoga mat chemicalJoe Raedle/Getty Images
Azodi-what? Also known as the yoga mat chemical (you’ll find azodicarbonamide in commercially baked bread and yoga mats), this chemical additive is a whitening agent and dough conditioner that the FDA considers safe for food uses including cereal flour and bread dough. Does bread need ADA in order to taste good? Of course not, but that’s not going to stop large manufacturers from using this additive that helps keep their enormous quantities of food light and strong, just like yoga mats!
ADA is banned in Europe, but it is found in almost 500 common American grocery store and chain restaurant foods, despite the World Health Organization linking the potential carcinogen to diease. Subway phased out the ingredient in 2014 after national uproar about ADA in sandwich chain’s bread, and while chains like Wendy’s and McDonald’s followed suit in removing the chemical from their menus, it’s still FDA approved and totally legal.
Poultry, water and more: Arsenic
Is your chicken laced with arsenic? Probably. Jean-Francois Monier/Getty Images
We know what you’re thinking, this can’t mean arsenic, like, the poison? Arsenic the poison is in our food?! Yes, yes it is. Arsenic, which can be naturally found in soil and water and absorbed by plants is currently under review by the FDA, which is aware of the risks long-term exposure to arsenic can trigger, including cancer and heart disease. Arsenic is one of the World Health Organization’s top 10 chemicals of public health concern, and even in the U.S., drinking water, crops irrigated with arsenic-contaminated water and food prepared with contaminated water can make fish, shellfish, meat, poultry, dairy products and cereals all sources of arsenic in your diet. In the European Union, Japan and beyond, arsenic is also banned in livestock feed, though the FDA defends low quantities of arsenic found in poultry and other foods.
“Low fat” chips and more: Olestra
Is there Olestra in your chips?Frank Augstein/AP
Named one of Time’s 50 Worst Inventions, the FDA-approved Olestra is a calorie-free, fat-free, cholesterol-free chemical created to remove a need for fattening cooking oil but still bring the flavor to traditionally fatty foods like chips and fries. Sound too good to be true? Obviously, it is. You’ll find Olestra in diet versions of food products like including chips, frozen yogurt and more.
Olestra been linked to gastrointestinal disease in children, terrible diarrhea in adults and has also been found to increase appetite, completely negating its potential fat-free benefits. You’ll still find Olestra, sometimes referred to by its brand name Olean, in American foods, but it’s banned in Canada and European countries.
If you’re attempting to Google a mysterious ingredient and your autocorrect doesn’t recognize it, perhaps take that as a sign this human-created substance isn’t something natural you want to be putting in your body.
Unbelievably, foodstuffs that are considered a health risk, even as far as causing cancer, are still included in certain produce and available to the American public. There are also still certain products that prevail in Europe, which pose health risks, amplifying the importance of checking labels.
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in America is allowing products to be sold which contain ingredients that are banned in most of the rest of the western world. It is seriously worrying when a country seemingly prioritises financial gain over the health of its people. If this is not the case then why are the FDA still permitting the use of harmful additives in foods.
Sadly a high percentage of the average American’s shopping list consists of packaged and processed foods all containing high levels of additives and very low in nutrients. Many of the additives in such foods have been linked to cancer and are banned in the EU. Food companies in some cases actually reformulate their products for sale in Europe but continue to sell the product containing the harmful additives in the States. As well as this there are several drugs used in farm animals in America which are banned in many European countries.
Recently a petition and lawsuit was put up against six artificial flavouring substances which have been shown to cause cancer in animals. Despite the FDA having insisted that these additives did “not pose a risk to public health” a ban was eventually passed and manufacturers who utilise these have two years to remove them from their products.
The amended food, drug and cosmetic act in 1958 prohibited the FDA from approving food additives which are linked to cancer, however, many substances that were in use prior to this date (and had approval) were considered to fall outside this amendment and are not regulated as food additives to this day.
Surely if a rat contracts cancer due to consumption of a particular food additive, this would be enough to deem such a product unworthy of human consumption. This doesn’t seem to be the case in the States.
Listed below are some of the additives which are restricted in the EU but permitted into American foods. (Most must be listed as ingredients on labels, though information about drugs used to increase the yield in farm animals is generally not provided).
Potassium bromate and azodicarbonamide (ADA)
Potassium bromate is often added to flour used to make baked goods such as bread, cookies, pastry, pizza dough, etc. in order to help it rise and give a better look once baked. It has been considered a threat to humans as it is a possible carcinogen. Studies have linked potassium bromate to kidney and nervous system damage, thyroid problems, gastrointestinal discomfort, and cancer. This is banned in Europe however the FDA in the States claimed that the additive was in use prior to the amendment on carcinogenic additives was passed and rejected petitions from the Centre for Science in the Public Interest almost twenty years ago!
Azodicarbonamide (ADA) is a whitening agent and conditioner used in cereal flour and dough which gets broken down whilst being cooked into chemicals which cause cancer in animals. The banning of ADA has been requested but the FDA responded that ‘it is safe for human consumption in limited amounts’!
Some American food chains have cracked under pressure from the consumer and removed both from their foods however they are both still prevalent in many products.
In Europe these flavour enhancer and preservatives are under heavy restriction but again widely used in American foodstuffs. BHA has been listed as a potential human carcinogen, even in the US where they continue to allow its use. These preservatives can be found in breakfast cereal, nut mixes, chewing gum, butter spread, meat, dehydrated potatoes and beer, to name but a few items.
BVO is used in soft drinks such as Mountain Dew, and some sports drinks. Bromine has been shown to cause memory loss, and nerve issues. BVO has been shown to bioaccumulate in human tissue and breast milk, and animal studies have found it causes reproductive and behavioural problems in large doses. Bromine is a central nervous system depressant, and a common endocrine disruptor.
Europe banned it, the FDA consider it to be safe in limited amounts, however will reassess this should any new studies questioning its safety come to light.
Yellow food dyes No. 5 and 6, Red Dye No. 40
Any product containing these colouring agents are instructed to carry a warning stating that they ‘may have an adverse effect of activity and attention in children’, if they are to be sold in Europe. In America no such warning is required. A petition was sent to the FDA in 2008 to ban the dyes, the FDA rejected the request but do acknowledge that the yellow dye No.5 may cause itching and hives! These dyes are present in goods such as drinks, baby food, desserts, processed vegetables, drugs, mustard, ketchup, chocolate, marshmallows, sweets, icing, cereal, breakfast bars…the list goes on.
The EU also bans some drugs that are still used on farm animals in the United States, citing health concerns. These drugs include bovine growth hormone, which the United States dairy industry uses to increase milk production. It is banned in at least 30 other nations because of its dangers to human health, which include an increased risk for colorectal, prostate, and breast cancer by promoting conversion of normal tissue cells into cancerous ones. Non-organic dairy farms frequently have rBGH-injected cows that suffer at least 16 different adverse health conditions, including very high rates of mastitis that contaminate milk with pus and antibiotics.
The European Union also does not allow the drug ractopamine, used in the United States to increase weight gain in pigs, cattle and turkeys before slaughter, an FDA spokeswoman said the drugs are safe. Ractopamine was recruited for livestock use when researchers found that the drug, used in asthma, made mice more muscular because it reduces the overall fat content of the meat. Since 1998, more than 1,700 people have been “poisoned” from eating pigs fed the drug, and ractopamine is banned from use in food animals in no less than 160 different countries due to its harmful health effects, but not America.
Genetically Modified Foods
Many different researches now show that animals fed genetically engineered foods, such as corn and soy, suffer a wide range of maladies, including intestinal damage, multiple-organ damage, massive tumours, birth defects, premature death, and near complete sterility by the third generation of offspring. Unfortunately, the gigantic human lab experiment is only about 10 years old, so we are likely decades away from tabulating the human casualties. This is banned in Europe.
Arsenic-based drugs are approved for use in animal feed in the US because they make animals grow quicker and make the meat appear more pink and fresh looking. The problem is, arsenic also contaminates manure where it can eventually migrate into drinking water and is causing heightened arsenic levels in US rice. Regular exposure to arsenic, even at low levels, can raise your risk of bladder, lung and skin cancer, as well as heart disease and type 2 diabetes. It can also have a negative impact on a baby’s growing immune system. Arsenic levels have risen in recent years, but they’re still not high enough for the FDA to be concerned. This is banned in Europe.
Foods or additives to be aware of in Europe as well as the States:
Wild salmon achieves its pink colour from its natural diet, farmed salmon however are raised on grains (including genetically engineered varieties), antibiotics and other drugs and chemicals which are not considered safe for human consumption. Their diet makes them appear a sad looking grey colour and so they are fed astaxanthin, a synthetic made from petrochemicals, which contains toxicities and can damage our eyesight; again, not fit for human consumption. We are advised to avoid farmed salmon and opt for wild salmon; Alaskan or Sockeye salmon are a safe bet as they are not allowed to be farmed. Farmed salmon is only currently banned in Australia and New Zealand.
Olean or Olestra
Olestra, aka Olean, created by Procter & Gamble, is a calorie and cholesterol-free fat substitute used in fat-free snacks. A 2011 study from Purdue University concluded that rats fed potato chips made with Olean not only gained weight, but there were several reports of adverse intestinal reactions to the fake fat including diarrhoea, cramp and leaky bowels. Because it interferes with the absorption of fat soluble vitamins such as A, D, E and K, the FDA requires these vitamins be added to any product made with Olean or olestra! This is banned in the UK but not the rest of Europe.
As always our strong dietary advice is to eat a nutrient-dense, whole, varied and predominantly plant-based diet, high in fibre, grains and healthy fats. Sleep well, exercise well and stay hydrated. Remove, or at very least greatly reduce, processed food intake and stay away from fast food and sodas, anything high in sugar or salt and avoid trans fats. Oh, and always check the label!
June 26, 2013 — intro: A recently published list of foods banned in countries outside the U.S. has riled the plates of many in the food industry.
Last week, Buzzfeed published a list of 8 ingredients banned outside the U.S. that are found in foods in America. The list was derived from the book, Rich Food, Poor Food: The Ultimate Grocery Purchasing System, written by husband and wife team Jayson Calton, who has a Ph.D. in nutrition, and Mira Calton, a licensed certified nutritionist.
Said Mira Calton: “We call it our GPS of grocery purchasing system: how to identify dangerous ingredients — so people can shop safe and smart in the grocery store.”
The book includes a list of banned foods and dangerous foods, which they call “poor food.”
Calton said manufacturers are not putting these ingredients in their food to be “bad people.”
“It might have been part of their original formula and sometimes they don’t know,” Calton said.
The Food and Drug Administration assures the public that despite the frenzy over the list of ingredients banned in some countries outside the U.S., it is doing its job of monitoring food safety.
“As part of FDA’s overall commitment to ensure the safety of the food supply, the agency uses an extensive, science-based process to evaluate the safety of food additives,” the agency said in a statement to ABC News. “The law requires that the FDA determine there is reasonable certainty that an additive does not cause harm when it is used as intended. The agency continues to monitor the science on food additives and is prepared to take appropriate action if there are safety concerns. When determining that a food or ingredient is ‘generally recognized as safe’ or GRAS for its intended use in food, the same quantity and quality of evidence is required as is needed to approve a food additive.”
Derek Lowe, a chemist who has a Ph.D. from Duke University, said the list is an example of “chemophobia.” He told ABC News his reaction to the viral online list was “incredulity and revulsion.”
“The thing is, I’m not reflexively saying people should eat all the food additives they can find. I don’t myself. But the amount of understanding in the article was so minimal, it really pushed my buttons as a scientist,” Lowe said.
The Caltons said they are not calling on the FDA to ban these ingredients, but they said “all of the ingredients on the list pose a potential danger to consumers and we feel the consumer should be made aware so that they can make an informed decision as to whether or not they want to buy a product with these ingredients.”
Julie Jones, a professor emeritus with St. Catherine University in Minnesota and author of the textbook, Food Safety, said what drives one country to ban a food and not another often has to do with as much politics as it does science.
If one believes Paracelsus’s principle, “the dose makes the poison,” Jones said she believes these products have gone through the correct due diligence in the U.S.
“We have science and politics and they are different in each country,” Jones said.
Here are 11 ingredients noted as banned in other countries and what some experts have to say about them:
quicklist:1 category: Nutrigrain Bars media: 19458499 title: Blue #1 food coloring text: Banned in Norway, Finland and France, Blue #1 and Blue #2 can be found in candy, cereal, drinks and pet food in the U.S., the Caltons say.
Kellogg’s did not reply to multiple requests for comment about its use of Blue #1 listed as an ingredient in some Nutrigrain bars.
Michael Pariza, professor emeritus of food science and past director of Food Research Institute at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, said most food dyes are not dangerous, with the exception of Yellow #5, but they can influence our perception of food — for better or worse.
“Taste, appearance and smell all go together. You can have the most fantastic, nutritious thing in the world, but if it looks bad and smells bad, you’re not going to eat it,” he said.
Blue #1 was at one point banned in several other European countries, but the EU later certified it as safe, said Lowe. Norway banned almost all food dyes from 1978 until 2001, but since then, they have had virtually the same regulations as the EU, he added.
Lowe said synthesized compounds, when used in food, “are often things that are effective in small amounts, because they’re so expensive,” as is the case with artificial dyes.
“People see the bright colors in cake icing and sugary cereals and figure that the stuff must be glopped on like paint, but paint doesn’t have very much dye or pigment in it, either,” Lowe writes in his blog.
quicklist:2 category: M&Ms media: 19458657 title: Blue #2 food coloring text: “Until the twentieth century, food coloring was obtained from natural sources,” Jayson and Mira Calton write in “Rich Food, Poor Food.” “People gathered spices, like saffron and turmeric, to add rich hues to their otherwise bland-colored foods. While this method may have been somewhat limiting in shades, at least it was safe. Today, most artificial colors are made from coal tar.”
Blue #2 is listed as an ingredient in Mars’ M&Ms. In a statement from Mars, the company said, “Around the globe there can be slightly different formulations and products available based on both local requirements and consumer preferences. All the colors we use in our products, no matter where they are sold, comply with our own strict internal quality and safety requirements as well as all applicable laws, regulations and safety assessments relating to colors added to food. All colors are declared on the label in accordance with applicable national laws and regulations and always meet the highest safety standards.”
Lowe said the concern about blue food dye’s connection to brain cancer is “unproven,” referring to studies in the 1980s with Blue #2. Lowe said rats were fed the dye over a long period in much larger concentrations — up to 2 percent of their total food intake — than even the most dedicated junk-food eater could encounter.
“Gliomas were seen in the male rats, but with no dose-response, and at levels consistent with historical controls in the particular rat strain. No one has ever been able to find any real-world connection,” Lowe wrote.
quicklist:3 category: Kraft Macaroni and Cheese media: 19458695 title: Yellow #5 (Tartazine), Yellow #6 food coloring text: Yellow #5 is banned in Norway and Austria due to compounds benzidine and 4-aminobiphenyl, the Caltons say.
“Six of the eleven studies on yellow #5 showed that it caused genotoxicity, a deterioration of the cell’s genetic material with potential to mutate healthy DNA,” the book, “Rich Foods, Poor Foods,” states.
Companies in the U.S. are required to list Yellow #5 in their ingredients because some people have sensitivity to it.
“Companies are so sensitive about allergies, but peanut allergies would be far more common than Tartazine,” Pariza said.
Yellow #6 is banned in Norway and Finland, the Caltons say, but Lowe said the dye is approved across the EU.
Lowe said benzidine and 4-minobiphenyl are two different names for the same compound, which is known as a human carcinogen.
“But it’s not a component of any food dye, certainly not of yellow #5, and it’s not even any part of its chemical structure,” Lowe said.
A spokeswoman for Kraft provided a statement to ABC News, stating, “The safety and quality of our products is our highest priority. We carefully follow the laws and regulations in the countries where our products are sold. So in the U.S., we only use ingredients that are approved and deemed safe for food use by the Food and Drug Administration.”
The International Food Information Council has said food ingredients are “carefully regulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to ensure that foods containing them are safe to eat and are accurately labeled.”
Read More: Mom to Kraft: Take Yellow Dye Out of Mac and Cheese
quicklist:4 category: Kraft Catalina Dressing media: 19458707 title: Red #40 text: “Red #40 may contain the carcinogenic contaminant p-Cresidine and is thought to cause tumors of the immune system,” according to “Rich Food, Poor Food”. “In the UK, it is not recommended for children,” the Caltons write, but it is approved for use in the EU.
The ingredient can be found in fruit cocktail, maraschino cherries, grenadine, cherry pie mix, ice cream, candy and other products, the Caltons say.
Lowe said he can’t find evidence for risk of tumors due to Red #40 and Cresidine “is certainly not a contaminant in the dyestuff” but is one pure compound.
“There is a possibility for cresidinesulfonic acid to be produced as a metabolite, but that’s a very different substance than Cresidine itself,” Lowe said.
Jones said high amounts of some ingredients could be damaging to some people, but that depends on the amount of consumption and the content of one’s diet in general.
“Unless you are crazy and you do drink 8 liters of pop a day, your diet is so disordered already, no wonder what you eat is toxic– eating things in a way that never intended to be eaten,” she said.
Kraft said, “The safety and quality of our products is our highest priority” and the company “carefully follow the laws and regulations in the countries where our products are sold.”
quicklist:5 category: Mountain Dew media: 19458718 title: Brominated vegetable oil text: Brominated vegetable oil, or BVO, acts as an emulsifier in soda and sports drinks, preventing the flavoring from separating and floating to the surface. The ingredient is banned more than 100 countries because it contains bromine, a chemical whose vapors can be corrosive or toxic, the Caltons say.
Aurora Gonzalez, a spokeswoman for PepsiCo, which owns Mountain Dew, said, “We take consumer safety and product integrity seriously and we can assure you that Mountain Dew is safe. As standard practice, we constantly evaluate our formulas and ingredients to ensure they comply with all regulations and meet the high quality standards our consumers expect.”
Lowe said the same chemical dangers of consuming a bromine directly can be said of chlorine.
Bromine-containing compounds can indeed cause bad reactions in people but not because bromine is a corrosive gas, he said.
“When a bromine atom is bonded to a carbon, as it is in BVO, it’s no longer bromine-the-pure-element, any more than the chlorine in table salt is the World War I poison gas, or the phosphorus in your DNA is the burning white phosphorus found in military tracer shells,” Lowe said.
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quicklist:6 category: media: 19458532 title: Azodicarbonamide text: This ingredient, which can bleach flour, is banned in Australia, the U.K. and many European countries, said the Caltons, who call it an “asthma-causing” allergen. Up to 45 parts per million is considered safe in the U.S. and it’s found in a wide range of breads and baked goods here.
While Lowe acknowledges the chemical can be used to “foam” foamed plastics, “the conditions inside hot plastic, you will be glad to hear, are quite different from those inside warm bread dough,” he said. In that environment, azodicarbonamide doesn’t react to make birurea – it turns into several gaseous products, which are what blow up the bubbles of the foam, which is not its purpose in bread dough.
While repeated or prolonged contact to the chemical may cause asthma and skin sensitization, Lowe said that refers to the pure chemical and not 45 parts per million in uncooked flour.
“If you’re handling drums of the stuff at the plastics plant, you should be wearing protective gear. If you’re eating a roll, no,” Lowe writes.
quicklist: 7 category: flatbread and bagel chips media: 19458610 title: Potassium Bromate (Bromated flour) text: Potassium bromate, which strengthens dough, contains bromine, is also in brominated vegetable oil.
“The good news is that American bread manufacturers tell us that it disappears from the product during baking and deem that potassium bromate is safe as there is only negligible residue,” the Caltons write in their book. “However, the pastry chefs in Paris disagree. In fact, government regulatory bodies in Europe, Canada, China, and many other regions have banned the use of this additive. In California, if potassium bromate has been added, a product must carry a warning label.”
Lowe points out that bromate is different from bromide and bromine.
“Chloride is the anion in table salt, but it’s also the anion in hydrochloric acid. Hypochlorite anion is laundry bleach,” said Lowe. “Perchlorate anion is in solid rocket fuel. They’re all different; that’s the point of chemistry.”
quicklist: 8 category: Ruffles Light media: 19458510 title: Olestra (Olean) text: Olestra fat substitute is banned in the U.K. and Canada because it causes a depletion of fat-soluble vitamins and carotenoid, the Caltons say, “robbing us of vital micronutrients that our foods should be delivering.”
It is found in Ruffles Light and Lay’s WOW chips. Frito-Lay did not return a request for comment about its use of Olestra.
Lowe acknowledges that the non-caloric fat substitute interferes with the absorption of fat-soluble vitamins, “but potato chips are not a very good source of vitamins to start with,” he writes.
He also points out that Olestra is found only in two brands of potato chips, “since it was a major failure in the market.”
“And vitamin absorption can be messed with by all kinds of things, including other vitamins (folic acid supplements can interfere with B12 absorption, just to pick one). But I can agree with the plan of not eating the stuff: I think that if you’re going to eat potato chips, eat a reasonable amount of the real ones,” he writes in his blog.
quicklist: 9 category: Chex media: 19458520 title: Butylated Hydroxyanisole (BHA) and Butylated Hydroxytoluene (BHT) text:
Banned in England, and other European countries, “these waxy solids act as preservatives to prevent food from becoming rancid and developing objectionable odors,” the Caltons write.
The state of California lists this ingredient as a possible carcinogen.
General Mills did not respond to a request about its use of BHT in Chex cereals.
Lowe said that BHT is approved by the EU and, “Animal studies notwithstanding, attempts to correlate human exposure to these compounds with any types of cancer have always come up negative.”
quicklist: category: Some dairy media: 19458685 title: rBGH and rBST text: Recombinant bovine growth hormone and recombinant bovine somatotropin, a synthetic version of bovine growth hormone, can be found in nonorganic dairy products unless noted on the packaging.
“However, several regions, including Australia, New Zealand, Canada, Japan, and the European Union, have banned rBGH and rBST because of their dangerous impacts on both human and bovine health,” the Caltons say.
American dairy producer, Stonyfield, opposes the use of rBST because of economics and cow health.
“An increase in milk supply generally leads to a drop in the price paid to farmers,” Stonyfield says on its website. “Price drops have put many farms out of business.”
In 1993, the FDA approved the use of rBST in dairy cows based on a review of existing scientific studies.
Beth Meyer, a spokeswoman for the American Dairy Association and Dairy Council Inc (ADADC), a regional organization representing dairy farmers in New York, northern New Jersey and northeastern Pennsylvania, said over the last 20 years rBST has been heavily researched and separate reviews by the National Institutes of Health, the joint World Health Organization/Food And Agriculture Organization Committee, the American Medical Association, as well as regulatory agencies in Canada and the European Union have corroborated the FDA’s conclusion.
“RBST is one of many management tools used by U.S. dairy farmers to provide a safe, affordable food supply,” she said.
Canada and several European countries have affirmed that milk produced from rBST cows is safe for human consumption. These countries don’t allow the sale of rBST to local farmers for reasons including economics, social customs and general opposition to technological advances used to promote efficient food production, not human health concerns.
Bovine growth hormone (rBGH) is given to dairy cattle to increase milk production, Lowe said, and BGH levels in the milk of treated cows are not higher than in untreated ones.
“Secondly, BGH is not active as a growth hormone in humans – it’s selective for the cow receptor, not the human one,” he said.
Lowe points out BGH was banned in some countries due to animal welfare concerns. “As far as human health, there doesn’t seem to be any evidence it’s bad for humans,” he said.
quicklist: category: Chicken feed media: 19458620 title: Arsenic text:
The Caltons warn about traces of arsenic, which has been banned in all foods in the EU, that can be found in some chicken feed.
Last month, Johns Hopkins University scientists said they found amounts of arsenic in chicken that exceeded naturally occurring levels.
But the National Chicken Council says chickens raised for meat or broilers (for meat production) are no longer given any feed additives containing arsenic.
“Broilers used to be given a product called Roxarsone which contained trace amounts of arsenic, but it was pulled from the market in 2011 and is no longer manufactured. No other products containing arsenic are currently fed to broilers in the U.S.” said Tom Super, spokesman for the council.
Lowe points out that 100 parts per billion of inorganic arsenic have been found in white rice, though he said that doesn’t pose a human health risk.
Arsenic can be found in groundwater supplies in a number of countries, according to the World Health Organization.
“It’s very hard to have a diet anywhere in the world that doesn’t have a trace amount of arsenic,” Jones said.
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Top 15 chemical additives in your food
We don’t just want our food to taste good these days: It also has to look good. As a result, food producers use any of 14,000 laboratory-made additives to make our food appear fresher, more attractive or last longer on the shelf.
The longer manufacturers use these additives, the more we learn about their impacts. While some additives are harmless, others cause everything from hives and asthma to nausea and headaches in some people. Some experts recommend avoiding foods listing more than five or six ingredients or ingredients of longer than three syllables and purchasing foods that contain such natural additives as fruits and vegetables.
Our list of the top 15 chemical additives and their possible side effects will help decipher ingredient lists at your supermarket.
This gas is pumped into crates of apples to stop them from producing ethylene, the natural hormone that ripens fruit. Commonly known as SmartFresh, this chemical preserves apples for up to a year and bananas up to a month. Sulphur dioxide serves the same purpose when sprayed on grapes.
Researchers in the early 1900s developed many artificial colors from coal-tar dyes and petrochemicals. Over the years, the FDA banned many of these chemicals as proven carcinogens (cancer-exacerbating agents). Today, the FDA only allows 10 colors in foods, four of which are restricted to specific uses. This restriction suggests some risks remain. Check out the color additives section of the FDA (www.fda.gov/ForIndustry/ColorAdditives/default.htm) Web site for more information.
This blanket term refers to hundreds of laboratory chemicals designed to mimic natural flavors. For example, some imitation vanilla flavorings are made from petroleum or paper-mill waste. In fact, a single artificial flavoring can be created from hundreds of individual chemicals. New studies suggest artificial-flavoring additives can cause changes in behavior.
This sugar substitute is sold commercially as Equal and NutraSweet and was hailed as a savior for dieters unhappy with saccharine’s unpleasant after-taste. Unfortunately, one out of 20,000 babies is born without the ability to metabolize phenylalanine, one of the two amino acids in Aspartame. As a result, it’s not recommended for pregnant women or infants.
Almost 90-percent of salmon sold in supermarkets today come from farms. The diet of farmed salmon doesn’t include crustaceans, which contains a natural astaxanthin that causes pink flesh in wild salmon. As a result, producers add astaxanthin to farm-salmon diets for that fresh-from-the-water appearance. Astaxanthin is manufactured from coal tar.
BENZOIC ACID/SODIUM BENZOATE
Often added to milk and meat products, these preservatives are used in many foods, including drinks, low-sugar products, cereals and meats. Both temporarily inhibit the proper functioning of digestive enzymes and cause headaches, stomach upset, asthma attacks and hyperactivity in children.
BHA (BUTYLATED HYDROXYANISOLE) AND BHT (BUTYLATED HYDROXYTOLUENE)
These antioxidants are similar but non-identical petroleum-derived chemicals added to oil-containing foods as a preservative and to delay rancidity. They are most commonly found in crackers, cereals, sausages, dried meats and other foods with added fats. The World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer considers BHA a possible human carcinogen.
Egg yolks don’t always come out golden yellow, so producers use this pigment to make them more palatable. Although the amounts used are very small, tests have shown greater quantities of canthaxanthin can cause retinal damage.
Emulsifiers, made from vegetable fats, glycerol and organic acids, extend the shelf life of bread products and allow liquids that wouldn’t normally mix, such as oil and water, to combine smoothly. Many reduced-fat or low-calorie products use emulsifiers. Commercial emulsifiers also are used in low-calorie butter, margarine, salad dressings, mayonnaise and ice cream. Emulsifying agents used in foods include agar, albumin, alginates, casein, egg yolk, glycerol monostearate, xanthan gums, Irish moss, lecithin and soaps.
HIGH-FRUCTOSE CORN SYRUP
This ubiquitous sweetener helps maintain moisture while preserving freshness. A little fructose isn’t a problem but the sheer quantity of “hidden” fructose in processed foods is startling. The consumption of large quantities has been fingered as a causative factor in heart disease. It raises blood levels of cholesterol and triglyceride fats, while making blood cells more prone to clotting and accelerating the aging process.
MONOSODIUM GLUTAMATE (MSG)
There was much hue and cry years ago when the public learned Chinese restaurants commonly added MSG to Chinese foods as a flavor enhancer. We then learned MSG could be found in many other processed products, such as salad dressings, condiments, seasonings, bouillons and snack chips. Some reports indicate MSG causes tightening in the chest, headaches and a burning sensation in the neck and forearms. While MSG is made of components found in our bodies _ water, sodium and glutamate (a common amino acid) _ ingesting it is an entirely different matter.
The FDA approved this fake fat for use in snack foods several years ago, over objections from dozens of researchers. Their concern was that Olestra inhibits our ability to absorb the healthy vitamins in fruits and vegetables thought to reduce the risk of cancer and heart disease. Even at low doses, Olestra is commonly known to cause “anal leakage” and other gastrointestinal problems. Perhaps this is why the FDA requires foods containing Olestra carry a warning label.
Hydrogenation is the process of heating an oil and passing hydrogen bubbles through it. The fatty acids in the oil then acquire some of the hydrogen, which makes it more dense. If you fully hydrogenate, you create a solid (a fat) out of the oil. But if you stop part way, you create a semi-solid, partially hydrogenated oil with the consistency of butter. Because this process is so much cheaper than using butter, partially-hydrogenated oils are found in many, many foods. Their addictive properties have linked partially-hydrogenated oils to weight problems caused by a slowed metabolism and the development of diabetes, cancer and heart disease.
Potassium bromate increases volume in white flour, breads and rolls. Most bromate rapidly breaks down to an innocuous form, but it’s known to cause cancer in animals _ and even small amounts in bread can create a risk for humans. California requires a cancer warning on the product label if potassium bromate is an ingredient.
SODIUM NITRITE AND NITRATE
These closely related chemicals have been used for centuries to preserve meat. While nitrate itself is harmless, it easily converts to nitrite which, when combined with secondary-amines compounds form nitrosamines, a powerful cancer-exacerbating chemical. This chemical reaction occurs easily during the frying process.
New fat, same old problem with an added twist? Citation: Top 15 chemical additives in your food (2010, January 19) retrieved 1 February 2020 from https://medicalxpress.com/news/2010-01-chemical-additives-food.html This document is subject to copyright. Apart from any fair dealing for the purpose of private study or research, no part may be reproduced without the written permission. The content is provided for information purposes only.
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Have you ever traveled to Europe and noticed how different their food is compared to America? I’ve had friends tell me…
“I can eat bread only when I’m in France”
“I lost 10 pounds eating whatever I wanted while in Europe, but came home and gained it right back”.
Our food is filled with things not on the label… like pesticides, hormones, and drugs that aren’t in the food in Europe.
Why is their food so much better?
Europe takes a precautionary approach towards food safety (1). This means they are proactive in banning chemicals that MIGHT harm people. The U.S. takes the opposite approach. It does not ban chemicals from our food supply until they have been PROVEN dangerous – which can take a very long time because it’s filled with industry influence or people have to start dying from long term exposure – as was the case with trans fats (2). This makes Americans literally the lab rats while the food and chemical industries rake in the profits at the expense of our health.
They banned it after a scientific review found it possibly causes DNA damage (which can lead to cancer) and also to steep declines in bumblebees. This fungicide is used on wheat and barley crops, as well as some fruits and vegetables. The USDA has found residues primarily on cucumbers, celery, summer squash, peaches, and berries in recent years (wheat and barley haven’t been tested for chlorothalonil) (4).
The good news? This fungicide is NOT used on organic crops and the USDA hasn’t found residues of it on organic foods tested (4).
In my latest book, Feeding You Lies, I show you simple ways to avoid the chemical onslaught on our food, despite all of the lies on product pages like “natural”, “healthy”, and “diet”. You’ll see how to protect yourself from unhealthy foods that cause weight gain and health problems down the road. It is now available in bookstores everywhere (and currently at about 44% off on Amazon!!!!).
Feeding You Lies
Available in stores everywhere
Top Ten Toxic Food Ingredients in Processed Food
Any food that has been canned, dehydrated, or had chemicals added to it is a processed food, and these foods make up about 60 percent of the average American diet.
EveryDay Health | Jillian Michaels | Most of us don’t think of the food we eat as poison, but some of the ingredients commonly found in processed foods can be considered toxic. By “toxic,” I mean chemicals or highly processed ingredients that aren’t good for you or can cause harm to your health. I’m talking about refined grains, trans fats, high fructose corn syrup, and all the other artificial junk you can’t even pronounce on the ingredient lists. Any food that has been canned, dehydrated, or had chemicals added to it is a processed food, and these foods make up about 60 percent of the average American diet. They’ve taken over, and we have to FIGHT BACK. Know which toxic food ingredients to avoid:
1. Palm Oil
When a regular fat like corn, soybean, or palm oil is blasted with hydrogen and turned into a solid, it becomes a trans fat. These evil anti-nutrients help packaged foods stay “fresh,” meaning that the food can sit on the supermarket shelf for years without ever getting stale or rotting. Eating junk food with trans fats raises your “bad” LDL cholesterol and triglycerides and lowers your “good” HDL. These fats also increase your risk of blood clots and heart attack. Avoid palm oil and other trans fats like the plague, and kiss fried foods goodbye too, since they’re usually fried in one of these freakish trans-fatty oils.
Ditch any food that lists shortening or partially hydrogenated oil as an ingredient, since these are also evil trans fats. In addition to clogging your arteries and causing obesity, they also increase your risk of metabolic syndrome. Choose healthier monounsaturated fats, such as olive, peanut and canola oils and foods that contain unsaturated omega-3 fatty acids instead.
3. White Flour, Rice, Pasta, and Bread
When a whole grain is refined, most of its nutrients are sucked out in an effort to extend its shelf life. Both the bran and germ are removed, and therefore all the fiber, vitamins, and minerals. Because these stripped down, refined grains are devoid of fiber and other nutrients, they’re also easy to digest â€” TOO EASY. They send your blood sugar and insulin skyrocketing, which can lead to all sorts of problems. Replace processed grains with whole grains, like brown or wild rice, whole-wheat breads and pastas, barley, and oatmeal.
4. High Fructose Corn Syrup
The evil king of all refined grains is high fructose corn syrup (HFCS). The amount of refined sugar we consume has declined over the past 40 years, but we’re consuming almost 20 times as much HFCS. According to researchers at Tufts University, Americans consume more calories from HFCS than any other source. It’s in practically EVERYTHING. It increases triglycerides, boosts fat-storing hormones, and drives people to overeat and gain weight. Adopt my zero-tolerance policy, and steer clear of this sweet “poison.”
5. Artificial Sweeteners
Aspartame (NutraSweet, Equal), saccharin (Sweet’N Low, SugarTwin), and sucralose (Splenda) may be even harder on our metabolic systems than plain old sugar. These supposedly diet-friendly sweeteners may actually be doing more harm than good! Studies suggest that artificial sweeteners trick the brain into forgetting that sweetness means extra calories, making people more likely to keep eating sweet treats without abandon. Nip it in the bud. Scan ingredient labels and ban all artificial sweeteners from entering your mouth.
6. Sodium Benzoate and Potassium Benzoate
These preservatives are sometimes added to soda to prevent mold from growing, but benzene is a known carcinogen that is also linked with serious thyroid damage. Dangerous levels of benzene can build up when plastic bottles of soda are exposed to heat or when the preservatives are combined with ascorbic acid (vitamin C). Don’t risk it, people
7. Butylated Hydroxyanisole (BHA)
BHA is another potentially cancer-causing preservative, but it has been deemed safe by the FDA. Its job is to help prevent spoilage and food poisoning, but it’s a major endocrine disruptor and can seriously mess with your hormones. BHA is in HUNDREDS of foods. It’s also found in food packaging and cosmetics. BHA has many aliases. You can look them up. Or you can follow my advice and DITCH processed foods altogether.
8. Sodium Nitrates and Sodium Nitrites
No that’s not a typo. These two different preservatives are found in processed meats like bacon, lunch meat, and hot dogs. They’re some of the worst offenders, and they’re believed to cause colon cancer and metabolic syndrome, which can lead to diabetes. Protect your health by always choosing fresh, organic meats.
9. Blue, Green, Red, and Yellow
The artificial colors blue 1 and 2, green 3, red 3, and yellow 6 have been linked to thyroid, adrenal, bladder, kidney, and brain cancers. Always seek out foods with the fewest artificial chemicals, especially when shopping for your kids. Look for color-free medications and natural food products that don’t contain artificial colors like these.
Monosodium glutamate is a processed “flavor enhancer.” While glutamates are present in some natural foods, such as meat and cheese, the ones exploited by the processed-foods industry are separated from their host proteins through hydrolysis. The jury is still out on how harmful MSG may be, but high levels of free glutamates have been shown to seriously screw with brain chemistry. Don’t fall prey to chemical flavor enhancing. Just play it safe and flavor your food naturally.
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Children in Danger from Bisphenol A
Use of cleaning products increases risk of asthma in young children
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There are chemicals and additives we allow in our snacks, drinks and packaged foods that other countries consider so unhealthy, they’ve banned them.
What are we talking about?
Here’s just one example: Fake coloring that gives those eerie bright hues to boxed mac and cheese, breakfast cereal, candy and soft drinks. Linked to behavioral changes in children, allergies, migraines and possibly cancer, those dyes are banned in several countries plus the United Kingdom – but not in the United States.
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In March, two mothers petitioned Kraft to use safer, natural coloring in their mac and cheese products, as the company does in other countries where the dyes are illegal. Kraft said no.
Or how about brominated vegetable oil, or BVO, that’s added to citrus-flavored soda (like Mountain Dew) and sports drinks to make the artificial colors stick to the liquid. BVO contains bromine, which is used as a flame-retardant and has been linked to neurological problems and interference with thyroid hormones.
BVO has been banned in all European Union countries, as well as India and Japan, yet it’s in U.S. products. In January, PepsiCo announced it would no longer use the additive in Gatorade, after consumers complained, but would leave it in Mountain Dew.
The full list of foods with questionable chemicals banned elsewhere comes from a new book by nutritionists Jayson Calton, Ph.D., and Mira Carlton called Rich Food, Poor Food. It was also reported by BuzzFeed.com. Here are eight banned foods available in the U.S.
1. Artificially colored food made with dyes derived from petroleum and coal tar. Yellow 5, Red 40 and six others dyes – used to enhance products from Froot Loops to Nutri-Grain cereal bars – are called the ” rainbow of risk” by the Center for Science in the Public Interest. They are banned in Norway, Finland, France, Austria and the U.K.
2. Chicken with arsenic. Arsenic in chicken feed cuts down on parasites, makes chickens grow faster and gives their meat more color. It also gives the chicken we eat higher levels of arsenic, known to cause lung, bladder and skin cancers, a study last month by the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in Baltimore found. Arsenic-laced feed is banned in the European Union.
3. Drinks with brominated vegetable oil (BVO). Bromine is a chemical used to keep carpets from catching fire, among other things, so why is it in our food? PepsiCo is removing it from Gatorade but keeping it in Mountain Dew. BVO is banned in more than 100 countries.
4. Breads with potassium bromate, used in bromated flour to make bread products rise higher and faster. Found in rolls, bagel chips, bread crumbs and flatbreads, potassium bromate has been linked to thyroid and kidney cancers in lab animals. It has been banned in Europe, Canada and China. California declared it a carcinogen in 1991.
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5. Frozen dinners with azodicarbonamide. This is used to bleach and stabilize flour and also to make foamed plastic products like yoga mats and sneakers. Found in frozen TV dinners, packaged baked goods and some breads, it has been associated with inducing asthma. It is banned in Australia, the U.K. and most European countries.
6. Food preserved with BHA and BHT. These preservatives are added to cereal, nut mixes, gum, butter, meat and dehydrated potatoes to keep them from turning rancid. The debate over their safety has been going on in the U.S. for years. Meanwhile, they’re banned in the U.K., Japan and many European countries.
7. Milk with rBGH and rBST, also known as bovine growth hormones. Synthetic hormones, these are given to cows and therefore found in milk and other dairy products (unless the label specifically says otherwise). They have been linked to cancer and infertility and are banned in Australia, New Zealand, Canada, Japan and the European Union.
8. Chips with Olestra or Olean, a fat substitute used in fat-free chips, like Ruffles Wow. Olestra and Olean can produce cramps and leaky bowels and are banned in the U.K. and Canada.
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The Mountain Dew Ingredient Banned in 100 Countries
Did you know? Mountain Dew contains an ingredient that has been banned in 100 countries around the world.
What could 100 countries possibly know that we don’t?
There are now 10,000 additives in our food supply. For about 80 percent of these food additives, the FDA “lacked relevant information, including toxicity data, about the safe amount to eat” according to a new report.
In other words, what we once thought might be “Generally Regarded As Safe” or “GRAS”, might actually be “Generally Regarded As Suspicious.”
Brominated vegetable oil (also known as “BVO”) is one of the ingredients used in or food supply that has been called into question. It is found in sports drinks and citrus-flavored sodas . It is a chemical that keeps two liquids mixed together. It acts as a binding agent, also known as an emulsifier, and it prevents the flavoring and other ingredients found in our drinks from separating and floating to the surface.
It makes sense on a certain level, as we don’t want our drinks to look like a separated salad dressing with ingredients floating to the top. But this appearance might come with a hidden side effect. According to nutritionist Mira Calton and her husband Jayson Calton, Ph.D., “Because it competes with iodine for receptor sites in the body, elevated levels of may lead to thyroid issues, such as hypothyroidism, autoimmune disease and cancer,” Calton says. As if that wasn’t scary enough, BVO’s main ingredient, bromine, is considered a toxic chemical. It’s been linked to all kind of health concerns, including organ system damage, birth defects, schizophrenia and hearing loss, which explains why it’s been removed or banned from food and drinks in more than 100 countries.
These health concerns and the fact that so many countries have removed BVO from their beverages was so concerning to one teenager that she launched an online petition that called for the removal of this ingredient from American beverages, landing her in the New York Times.
If you want to opt out of brominated vegetable oil here in the United States, simply skip the sports drinks and choose water. And if you’re filling up your cup at the soda fountain, instead of the lemon-lime and citrus flavored drinks, consider drinking something else. Coke and Pepsi responded to consumer pressure and pledged to remove this ingredient. What it will be replaced with? And is that replacement safe? Stay tuned. Whatever you do, remember, while none of us can do everything, all of us can do something. Focus on progress not perfection. Do what you can, where you are with what you have, remembering not to make “the perfect” the enemy of “the good.”
And together, leveraging our collective talents and voices, we can get these ingredients out of our food supply the way consumers around the world already have.
Robyn O’Brien is the Vice President of rePlant Capital, an impact investment firm, deploying integrated capital from soil to shelf in order to reverse climate change and support farmers. She is also the founder of Do Good, a strategic advisory firm, and the AllergyKids Foundation. Random House published Robyn’s book, The Unhealthy Truth, in 2009, and her TEDx talks have been translated into dozens of languages and viewed by millions around the world. About the author
Robyn O’Brien is the Vice President of rePlant Capital, an impact investment firm, deploying integrated capital from soil to shelf in order to reverse climate change and support farmers. She is also the founder of Do Good, a strategic advisory firm, and the AllergyKids Foundation. Random House published Robyn’s book, The Unhealthy Truth, in 2009, and her TEDx talks have been translated into dozens of languages and viewed by millions around the world.
9 Food Ingredients Americans Love That Are Banned in Other Countries
If you’re living in the United States, there’s a pretty big chance that something that you’ve had something to eat lately that would be banned in many other countries.
There are ingredients in the most commonplace of foods – macaroni and cheese, Orbit gum and the bun of your Big Mac – that have been deemed too dangerous for consumption by health authorities around the world.
Brominated vegetable oil (BVO), a food additive used in Gatorade is banned in multiple countries based on health concerns led 15-year-old Sarah Kavanagh to start a petition to have it removed from her favorite drink.
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) should help protect American consumers, but the agency has faced criticism in the past for neglecting to crackdown on dangerous additives.
“The FDA has been extremely lenient in evaluating food additives, and it’s almost impossible to get the FDA to ban an additive once they have approved it,” Michael Jacobson, from the Center for Science in the Public Interest told the Chicago Tribune. “It’s just not as public health-oriented as it should be.”
On the other hand, the European Union is much more vigilant about ensuring that harmful additives are kept out of the hands of consumers. Earlier this year, when a top EU official made assurances that a new trade agreement with the U.S. would not mean the U.S. would be able to export foods banned by the EU.
But food regulation is a complex topic, and the research is not always conclusive. And as Julie Jones, author of the book Food Safety, explained to ABC News, the decisions to ban certain ingredients often have as much to do with politics in the countries in question, as it does with science.
The FDA argues it “uses an extensive, science-based process to evaluate the safety of food additives” and “continues to monitor the science on food additives and is prepared to take appropriate action if there are safety concerns.”
It is nonetheless fascinating to see which ingredients and foods banned around the world you can find in the U.S. Here are a few of them:
This can be found in frozen meals and baked goods, like McDonalds’ burger buns. Links to asthma, allergies and skin problems have been reported. The substance is banned in Australia, the UK and several European countries.
This is a fat-substitute used in fat-free chips such as Pringles Light and french fries, among other things. It reportedly has the unsavory side-effects of causing gas, cramps and diarrhea (or “anal leakage”), and is illegal in Canada and the UK.
This mixture of chemicals (known as DPA) is what is used to make the apples that you buy at the grocery store particularly shiny. These chemicals are used to prevent fruit from blackening or browning while in storage. It has been reported that the “chemicals can break down and form nitrosamines, which are carcinogenic.” DPA has recently been banned in the EU.
4. Yellow #5
Studies have shown that food colouring Yellow #5, which can be found in products like macaroni and cheese, causes genotoxicity. It is banned in Norway and Austria.
5. Brominated vegetable oil
This ingredient makes food dye and flavor stick to liquids, such as sports drinks. It is reportedly banned in over a 100 countries, because the vapors from the chemical bromine “can be corrosive or toxic.” Coke and PepsiCo recently announced that they are working on on removing BVO from all their products, following a Change.org campaign.
6. Potassium bromate
This substance can be found in various types of bread, because it helps the dough rise and bleaches it. Some research has linked the substance to cancer, and it has been banned in the EU, Canada, Peru, Nigeria, Brazil, South Korea and China.
7. Genetically modified papaya
Genetically modified food is a controversial, much-debated topic. Proponents believe it is not dangerous and has a number of positive features, while sceptics worry about long-term effects among other things. In the EU, all GM foods must be labelled, but GM papaya is banned.
8. BHA and BHT
These food preservatives can be found in a number of products as diverse as cereal, gum, butter and meat. Studies have failed to establish a correlation between human exposure to these and cancer, but they are banned in the UK, Japan and several European countries.
Ractopamine is a growth drug given to pigs, cattle and turkeys. It has been linked to cardiovascular problems and hyperactivity in humans (and pigs), and is banned in the EU, China and Taiwan.
I feel like the more I learn about the food system in America, the more I feel confused and disconnected from what I’m even eating. There are so many additives and chemicals in our foods today and it makes it seem impossible to find a simple, naturally grown item.
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approves all foods that are sold in our grocery stores in the US. They’re supposed to be making sure foods are safe for us to eat, but honestly, they have approved some sketchy sh*t that is actually banned in other countries. Here are some of the outright terrible foods that the FDA should have never approved.
1. Partially Hydrogenated Oil
Partially hydrogenated oils are made from liquid oils and chemicals that are added to make them solid at room temperature. These oils are in tons of packaged baked goods in grocery stores and are often used in fried foods at restaurants. These oils create the dreaded trans fats that are so incredibly terrible for our bodies.
These fats also increase your probability of getting heart disease and are the most harmful fat in our foods. Many food companies are removing partially hydrogenated oils from their products, but the FDA still has yet to ban them.
2. Foods Containing Flame Retardants
What? Flame retardants? I swear I am not lying. Brominated vegetable oil (BVO) is added to some drinks, such as Mountain Dew, to enhance the citrus flavor. BVO has also been used by other companies as a flame retardant in plastics.
This chemical blocks receptors in our bodies, which can lead to endocrine problems, reproductive problems, and more. This chemical has been banned in other countries but is approved by the FDA. Do your insides a favor and steer clear of drinks with brominated vegetable oil listed in the ingredients.
3. Olean or Olestra in Fat-Free Foods
Olean is an additive in many packaged foods that are fat-free. This chemical is very toxic because it inhibits our body’s ability to absorb the essential vitamins that do great things for our health. The body doesn’t know how to process this ingredient and consumption could lead to loose bowel movements—and know no one wants that.
4. Caramel Coloring
Caramel coloring is found in soft drinks, beer, and some packaged foods. According to one source, it contains a chemical that can increase the risk of cancer in humans. Caramel coloring is the most used food coloring in the world despite its risks.
Many companies are trying to stop using this ingredient in their foods and drinks but it is still approved by the FDA. Make sure to look at food labels and stay away from things that have caramel coloring.
5. RBGH in Dairy
RBGH stands for recombinant bovine growth hormone. It is given to cows to increase their milk production. According to the American Cancer Society, this hormone has the potential to increase the risk of cancer in humans (although more research still needs to be completed). This hormone also causes udder infections in cows. The FDA approved RBGH in 1993 even though it is banned in the European Union, Canada, and other countries.
At the end of the day, we just can’t trust that everything sold in grocery stores is safe for us to eat. It’s up to us to look at food labels and make sure we’re not buying foods with these additives in them.
The Department of Health and Human Services’ (DHHS) Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is well known to Americans, as are their terms “FDA approval” and “off-label usage.” Unfortunately, the inappropriate usage of these terms has created confusion because of misinterpretation, which has damaged the doctor-patient relationship, as well as the incorrect conclusion that FDA approval enabled product use and insurance (Medicare) reimbursement for both the product and physician rendered services. The unintended consequences of misuse of these terms by companies, the media, and individuals have inappropriately interfered with the delivery of health care. Furthermore, FDA approval does not determine product reimbursement, which is solely determined by CMS , which, after FDA product approval, determines whether or not reimbursement should be provided. However, CMS’ non-uniform regional reimbursement policy enables Medicare contractors’ to use selective and indiscriminate reimbursement, which limits patient access to selective FDA approved products, according to their area of domicile. Fortunately, these issues, which have adversely affected patient care, are identifiable:
- The indiscriminate and inappropriate use of these FDA terms has not only confused the public and medical community, but also created doubt about physicians’ motivations, goals and treatments. The disingenuous advancement of these terms by companies, the media, and individuals seductively aggravated the situation because the American people believed that their comprehension of these few simple words revealed that a product’s usage by a physician, other than as described in the FDA-approval, implied wrongdoing and, implicitly, that a physician’s off-label usage was not safe, effective, and beneficial. These conclusions are incorrect. The FDA’s website details that FDA approval is solely for interstate marketing of a company’s product and “off-label usage” is legal and appropriate, within the physician’s discretion and indicates no misconduct; and,
- FDA product approval does not automatically result in reimbursement to the physician or hospital; reimbursement may be limited to only FDA-approved indications, and only occurs after CMS deems a product to be reasonable and necessary. However, CMS’ determinations are not uniform throughout the country.
The following paragraphs will define the FDA’s role and their terms “FDA approval” and “off-label usage”, detail how deceptive misusage of these terms by knowledgeable companies and individuals can adversely affect and limit medical care, and how the CMS’ Medicare contractor’s nonuniform haphazard regional reimbursement policy does not provide all Americans with the same health care.
The FDA’s responsibility is to grant and oversee a company’s interstate medical product marketing. The FDA’s valuable and important role is to conclude whether products are appropriately labeled as determined by risk analysis, assessment, monitoring of approved product clinical studies, evaluation of a company’s safety and efficacy claims, and then to grant interstate marketing licenses. FDA scientists review a company’s proposed claim and determine if marketing the product is appropriate. The Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act required the FDA to review data derived from adequate and well-controlled tests to establish both safety and effectiveness before a new drug (or device) can be approved for sale (21USC Sections 355, 360c). FDA approval is only for the usage claim(s), and denial of a product claim may occur because of insufficient evidence, unacceptable risks and/or FDA-sponsor disagreement about the scope or wording of the claim. The lack of FDA approval for a different indication, specifically, means that relevant data to establish safety and effectiveness for that indication have not been transmitted to, reviewed and approved by the FDA. This does not mean that the drug or device used for this nonevaluated indication is not safe, effective or beneficial for that particular usage. Since “neither the FDA nor the Federal Government regulate the practice of medicine…any approved product may be used by a licensed practitioner for uses other than those stated in the product label. Off-label use is not illegal, but rather means that data to support that usage have not been independently reviewed by the FDA.” Since the FDA’s appropriate, rigorous regulatory approval pathways are expensive, arduous and time-consuming, companies seek approval for potentially profitable product indications, and not necessarily others. But, a company’s product marketing for unapproved usage claims cannot be condoned because such practices subvert and undermine the product approval processes determinations of safety and benefit, and, in a perverse way, allow a company to practice medicine without a license. In contradistinction, the trained and licensed physician, using best practice guidance and new therapeutic information, can use a product not reviewed by the FDA and not indicated within the product’s usage claims, and, thereby, continue to adhere to his/her paramount obligation of using best efforts in providing care for patients. The FDA has understood this distinct separation between physicians and vendors and has stated such. As an aside, off-label usage accounted for 21% of all prescription medications written (Radley DC et al, Arch Intern Med 2006;166:2554–2555).
While the term “FDA approval” provides comfort to the consumer, its counterpoint, “off-label usage,” is unsettling. Companies advantageously use these unsettling feelings by speciously advancing disinformation. Insurers repeatedly deny claims so as to reduce expenditures; WellPoint, the medical insurer, refused payment for the expensive drug, Avastin, using the off-label usage tact that “insufficient medical evidence” permitted its use against brain tumors (Geeta Anand, “Burden of Proof as Costs Rise, New Medicines Face Pushback: Insurers Limit Coverage to FDA-Approved,” Wall Street Journal, September 18, 2007). The patient’s oncologists used Avastin when all other treatments failed, but the insurer limited coverage of Avastin to only its FDA-approved use, with the innuendo that off-label usage implied ineffectiveness and physician wrongdoing. Mohit Ghose, spokesman for America’s Health Insurance Plans, stated that insurers must limit use of the most expensive drugs or devices to control health-care costs and assure employers of getting the best value of every health-care dollar spent, while avoiding issues of drug efficacy and contracted insurance coverage. After significant commotion, WellPoint paid, despite asserting that patient protection from “unapproved” drug usage was their goal. WellPoint was clearly not acting in the best interests of the patient.
Public officials intimately involved with public health-care policy and their legislative underpinnings speak and act in ways that do not have the needs of their constituents as a primary focus. Congressman Henry Waxman, a lawyer and leader on health issues, railed against the FDA’s policy change that allowed pharmaceutical companies to provide physicians peer-reviewed articles that detailed off-label drug use (www. medpagetoday.com/PublicHealthPolicy/HealthPolicy/7543). Waxman argued passionately that this “would allow drug and device companies to short-circuit FDA review and approval by sponsoring drug trials that are carefully constructed to deliver positive results and then the results to influence prescribing patterns…While there may need to be a balance between First Amendment and protection of public health, the answer is not to open the door to unrestricted dissemination of potentially questionable information about drug safety and effectiveness,…allowing marketing through journal articles can reduce the incentive for drug and device companies to conduct rigorous studies needed to win full FDA review and approval.” Waxman knew that off-label usage of drugs was appropriate and legal, but said that such a policy puts too much reliance on peer-reviewed journals to disseminate medical information and provide balance. Waxman’s remarks directly attacked physician integrity, medical research and researchers, peer-reviewed publications and physician motivation. Perhaps, Waxman wanted to be the ultimate peer reviewer, without credentials. In reality, Waxman attempted to prevent physicians from getting timely, peer-reviewed information from an additional source, the pharmaceutical representative, which would facilely allow physician assessment as to its place in patients’ therapy.
The FDA’s regulatory approval of a product’s safety and effectiveness influences patient care, as does the misuse of the FDA terms by companies and individuals. However, for a product to be widely employed, reimbursement is mandatory. The CMS, administrators of Medicare and Medicaid, is tasked with the mission to ensure effective, up-to-date and quality health-care coverage for beneficiaries, and their reimbursement decisions concern a product being reasonable and necessary. “Both CMS and the FDA review scientific evidence, and may review the same evidence, to make purchasing and regulatory decisions, respectively. (Federal Registry: http://www.cms.gov/ DeterminationProcess/Downloads/FR09262003.pdf)… CMS and its contractors make coverage determinations (67 FR 66755, November 1, 2002) … the product is reasonable and necessary as a condition of coverage under section 1862(a)(1)(A) of the Act. CMS adopts FDA determinations of safety and effectiveness, and CMS evaluates whether or not the product is reasonable and necessary for the Medicare population. Although an FDA-regulated product must receive FDA approval or clearance (unless exempt from the FDA premarket review process) for at least one indication to be eligible for Medicare coverage, except for Category B devices under an IDE clinical trial (see 60 FR 48417, September 19, 1995), FDA approval/clearance alone does not generally entitle that device to coverage.” However, all Medicare-covered Americans do not receive the same insurance coverage from their local Medicare contractor, and, thereby, the same care. “We contract with private insurance companies, referred to as carriers … to process Medicare claims; that is, claims-payment contractors…Medicare contractors review and adjudicate claims to ensure that Medicare payments are made only for those items or services covered under Medicare Part A or Part B. In the absence of a specific NCD , coverage determinations are made locally by the Medicare contractors within the boundaries established by the law. Sometimes these determinations are made on a claim-by-claim basis.” Thus, no uniform payment policy exists, and people from different parts of the country can receive different care because of different local reimbursement decisions, i.e., some patients will receive care for a product, while others not. The lack of a uniform policy allows these Medicare contractors to make nonuniform determinations, using a variety of unregulated reasons, concerning American’s health care, which is inappropriate.
Medicine’s rapid evolution demands facile physician adaptation and adoption of new therapies, and many patients cannot wait for governmental imprimaturs or published outdated guidelines to receive therapy. This concept underscores the physician’s awesome responsibility. The dilemma of new therapies supplanting another therapeutic alternative raises a myriad of specters including unethical clinical investigations, experimentation and inappropriate financial inducements for product usage. The medical community has taken these issues seriously, and the physician’s paramount obligation has unwaveringly remained, to use the best medical skills to heal the sick. The overwhelming majority of physicians have neither abandoned this credo, nor postured they are immune or opposed to criticism or critique. The deceptive and disingenuous use of FDA terms damages the doctor-patient relationship of trust, and improperly creates public fear and uncertainty about physicians and therapies. The FDA should not remain silent when these situations occur. The nonuniformity of Medicare contractors’ indiscriminate and selective reimbursement policies results in the unintended consequence of their practicing medicine by limiting the use of FDA-approved products for some physicians and not others, as well as inappropriate (tortious) interference with the contractual doctor-patient relationship by limiting access to particular FDA-approved products. A uniform policy of reimbursement procedures should be instituted. The inappropriate advancement of disinformation and the nonuniformity of reimbursement by Medicare contractors have damaged the doctor-patient relationship of trust, impugned physician integrity and limited the physician’s therapeutic armamentarium, all of which can adversely affect patient care. These issues can be facilely corrected.
From the Dorros-Feuer Interventional Cardiovascular Disease Foundation, Ltd., Wilson, Wyoming.
The author reports no conflicts of interest regarding the content herein.
Manuscript submitted April 20, 2010, provisional acceptance given May 26, 2010, final version accepted June 23, 2010.
Address for correspondence: Gerald Dorros, MD, P.O. Box 1654, 1120 South Thunder Road, Wilson, WY 83014. E-mail:
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Food Additives to Avoid
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There have been great advances in food preparation in the last century. These days, well over half of the foods that we can buy in a typical supermarket are pre packaged or prepared. They need either no or minimal preparation before being ready to eat. However, there is a dark side to this convenience. Most of the foods on our shelves also contain chemicals and additives that are known to harm either the human body or laboratory animals. If they harm animals, they can harm you too. Most of the ingredients that you should avoid fall into one of three areas: food additives, artificial sweeteners and artificial colors. More and more experts are agreeing that you are wise to try to avoid as many chemicals in your foods as possible. By shopping in mostly the produce, dairy and meat sections of your grocery store, you can avoid many of the harmful food additives listed below. However, all of us need to be on our guard, because some of these ingredients also are used in meats, dairy products and even produce. What does this have to do with Public health? The health of our country is determined by the things we consume. This ultimately adds massive costs to our healthcare system as more and more people experience disease from eating processed foods and additives.
While FDA generally recognizes most additives on this list as ‘safe,’ there are growing concerns about the safety of many common food additives, if consumed in large quantities.
- Sodium nitrate: Added to processed meats to stop bacterial growth. Linked to cancer in humans. (Worst Offender)
- Sulfites: Used to keep prepared foods fresh. Can cause breathing difficulties in those sensitive to the ingredient.
- Azodicarbonamide: Used in bagels and buns. Can cause asthma.
- Potassium bromate: Added to breads to increase volume. Linked to cancer in humans.
- Propyl gallate: Added to fat-containing products. Linked to cancer in humans
- BHA/BHT: A fat preservative, used in foods to extend shelf life. Linked to cancerous tumor growth.
- Propylene glycol: Better known as antifreeze. Thickens dairy products and salad dressing. Deemed ‘generally’ safe by FDA.
- Butane: Put in chicken nuggets to keep them tasting fresh. A known carcinogen.
- Monosodium glutamate (MSG): Flavor enhancer that can cause headaches. Linked in animal studies to nerve damage, heart problems and seizures.
- Disodium inosinate: In snack foods. Contains MSG.
- Disodium guanylate: Also used in snack foods, and contains MSG.
- Enriched flour: Used in many snack foods. A refined starch that is made from toxic ingredients.
- Recombinant Bovine Growth Hormone (rBGH): Geneticially-engineered version of natural growth hormone in cows. Boosts milk production in cows. Contains high levels of IGF-1, which is thought cause various types of cancer.
- Refined vegetable oil: Includes soybean oil, corn oil, safflower oil, canola oil, and peanut oil. High in omega-6 fats, which are thought to cause heart disease and cancer.
- Sodium benzoate: Used as a preservative in salad dressing and carbonated beverages. A known carcinogen and may cause damage our DNA.
- Brominated vegetable oil: Keeps flavor oils in soft drinks suspended. Bromate is a poison and can cause organ damage and birth defects. Not required to be listed on food labels.
- Propyl gallate: Found in meats, popcorn, soup mixes and frozen dinners. Shown to cause cancer in rats. Banned in some countries. Deemed safe by FDA.
- Olestra: Fat-like substance that is unabsorbed by the body. Used in place of natural fats in some snack foods. Can cause digestive problems, and also not healthy for the heart.
- Carrageenan: Stabilizer and thickening agent used in many prepared foods. Can cause ulcers and cancer.
- Polysorbate 60: A thickener that is used in baked goods. Can cause cancer in laboratory animals.
- Camauba wax: Used in chewing gums and to glaze certain foods. Can cause cancer and tumors.
- Magnesium sulphate: Used in tofu, and can cause cancer in laboratory animals.
- Chlorine dioxide: Used in bleaching flour. Can cause tumors and hyperactivity in children.
- Paraben: Used to stop mold and yeast forming in foods. Can disrupt hormones in the body, and could be linked to breast cancer.
- Sodium carboxymethyl cellulose: Used as a thickener in salad dressings. Could cause cancer in high quantities.
- Aluminum: A preservative in some packaged foods that can cause cancer.
Artificial Sweeteners to Avoid
Artificial sweeteners are regulated by FDA, just as food additives are, but this does not apply to products ‘generally recognized as safe.
- Saccharin: Carcinogen found to cause bladder cancer in rats. (Worst Offender)
- Aspartame: An excitotoxin and thought to be a carcinogen. Can cause dizziness, headaches, blurred vision and stomach problems.
- High fructose corn syrup: Sweetener made from corn starch. Made from genetically-modified corn. Causes obesity, diabetes, heart problems, arthritis and insulin resistance.
- Acesulfame potassium: Used with other artificial sweeteners in diet sodas and ice cream. Linked to lung and breast tumors in rats.
- Sucralose: Splenda. Can cause swelling of liver and kidneys and a shrinkage of the thymus gland.
- Agave nectar: Sweetener derived from a cactus. Contains high levels of fructose, which causes insulin resistance, liver disease and inflammation of body tissues.
- Bleached starch: Can be used in many dairy products. Thought to be related to asthma and skin irritations.
- Tert butylhydroquinone: Used to preserve fish products. Could cause stomach tumors at high doses.
Artificial Food Colorings to Avoid
Food colorings are used to give foods a more attractive appearance, but some experts believe they cause serious health problems, including asthma and hyperactivity in children.
- Red #40: Found in many foods to alter color. All modern food dyes are derived from petroleum. A carcinogen that is linked to cancer in some studies. Also can cause hyperactivity in children. Banned in some European countries. (Worst Offender)
- Blue #1: Used in bakery products, candy and soft drinks. Can damage chromosomes and lead to cancer.
- Blue #2: Used in candy and pet food beverages. Can cause brain tumors
- Citrus red #1: Sprayed on oranges to make them look ripe. Can damage chromosomes and lead to cancer.
- Citrus red #2: Used to color oranges. Can cause cancer if you eat the peel.
- Green #3: Used in candy and beverages. May cause bladder tumors.
- Yellow #5: Used in desserts, candy and baked goods.Thought to cause kidney tumors, according to some studies.
- Yellow #6: A carcinogen used in sausage, beverages and baked goods. Thought to cause kidney tumors, according to some studies.
- Red #2: A food coloring that may cause both asthma and cancer.
- Red #3: A carcinogen. that is added to cherry pie filling, ice cream and baked goods. May cause nerve damage and thyroid cancer.
- Caramel coloring: In soft drinks, sauces, pastries and breads. When made with ammonia, it can cause cancer in mice. Food companies not required to disclose if this ingredient is made with ammonia.
- Brown HT: Used in many packaged foods. Can cause hyperactivity in children, asthma and cancer.
- Orange B: A food dye that is used in hot dog and sausage casings. High doses are bad for the liver and bile duct.
- Bixin: Food coloring that can cause hyperactivity in children and asthma.
- Norbixin: Food coloring that can cause hyperactivity in children and asthma.
- Annatto: Food coloring that can cause hyperactivity in children and asthma.
- Avoid fast foods
- Avoid soda and sugary drinks & juice
- Eat more fruits, vegetables and grains
- Eat hormone free meat
- Drink hormone free milk
- Know what you’re eating!
Thank you references:
Natural beauty products that help you look + feel stunning!
It’s not much of a stretch to say that Europe is very different than the United States. And the differences don’t just lie in the art, food, or culture. One of the biggest differences is in attitude towards toxic ingredients in both food and cosmetics.
This topic really fascinates me and leaves me really confused. There are over 1300 substances completely banned from use in cosmetics (by the EU Cosmetics Regulation). A more recent set of regulations called REACH puts further regulations on more than 500 of those toxic ingredients.
By comparison, the FDA has banned 11. Nope. I didn’t miss a zero there.
The United States banned only 11 of the hundreds of toxic ingredients that have been scientifically proven to be harmful to your health.
This means it’s up to you to pay attention to what you buy – and what you don’t.
I have a few ideas on how to make sure the products you buy in the US are safe. Let’s start by highlighting some of the most worrisome ingredients that are strictly banned in the EU.
11 Toxic Ingredients Banned in the EU, but not in the USA
“Formaldehyde,” you may say. “Isn’t that the stuff they used to preserve the frog I dissected in 10th grade bio?” Why yes, yes it is! You’ll find formaldehyde most commonly in hair straightening treatments, as well as some nail polish and eyelash glue. It’s legal to include in US made cosmetics, however it is banned in Europe. It’s a known carcinogen and can cause breathing issues.
Petroleum is derived from the same stuff that fuels your car. It goes by a few different names, including mineral oil, petrolatum, and paraffin oil. Experts question whether any of these ingredients are safe to use long term because your body doesn’t metabolize it. Whatever gets into your body just kind of… sits there. What does that mean over the long term? Who knows! Which is likely why it’s not used in the EU. Keep your eye out for petroleum in moisturizing products for lips and skin.
Parabens, known by many different names (including methylparaben, isopropylparaben, pentylparaben, isobutylparaben, phenylparaben, and benzylparaben) are a preservative I talk a lot about on this blog. They have a tendency to mimic estrogen in the body, wreaking havoc on your hormonal system. Their impact may even be enough to reduce fertility in men. Parabens are extremely common in conventional skin and hair products, so keep a sharp eye out for them whenever you shop.
Think about the last time you (or your child) took antibiotics. They worked great, right? Well, they may not be as effective next time if triclosan continues to be found in US products. This ingredient may be a part of the rise of antibiotic resistant bacteria – a very, very scary thought. Steer clear of this ingredient in soaps and toothpastes.
This ingredient is found in products designed to brighten or lighten the skin. It’s also bad, bad news. Europe and Japan have outlawed it due to its cytotoxic nature. Hydroquinone kills cells and chromosomes if it is used too much, which sets the stage for some forms of cancer. While high doses of hydroquinone are banned in the US, prescription level amounts of 4% are readily available. There’s no evidence that this dosage doesn’t lead to cancer, so it makes the most sense to avoid hydroquinone completely.
Otherwise known as PPD, this ingredient is derived from coal tar. It leads to (very severe) allergic reactions and can be found in a huge number of conventional hair dyes. The EU has banned it altogether, and I’d encourage you to ban it from your bathroom as well.
Manufacturers use Quaternium-15 to help their makeup last as long as possible. Which is all well and good, until you realize that it can release formaldehyde. Yup, the same stuff that causes cancer and breathing issues. You’re most likely to find this banned ingredient in facial cosmetics, especially powders.
Talc shows up in cosmetics and hair care products that help get rid of oil (dry shampoo, powdered makeup, deodorants and even baby powder). While it’s great at getting rid of grease, it’s also quite good at containing asbestos and increasing your risk of lung growths and mesothelioma. While there is strict quality control on talc in the United States, it’s much safer to take the route the EU chose and avoid it altogether.
Fragrance: Ah, my old friend “fragrance.” If you’ve spent much time on this blog at all, you know I’m particularly wary whenever I see this word on a label. Loopholes in US labeling regulations let manufacturers include just about any ingredient they want in a product under the umbrella term of “fragrance.” It keeps you from ever really knowing what’s in your products. The EU took the sensible route of closing up this loophole altogether.
And… for some toxic ingredients you will find in sunscreens
Titanium: Titanium nanoparticles are a common ingredient in conventional sunscreen. These particles do block UV rays, but because of their small size they’re also able to penetrate your skin. There is growing concern that these particles may have a toxic effect on the brain, increase your risk of nerve damage, and cause cancer. With risks like that, it makes sense that the EU would ban it!
Avobenzone: Avobenzone is an interesting ingredient. It’s very unstable, and breaks down easily. When it does, it releases free radicals, destructive molecules that hurt your cells, cause early aging, and may even lead to cancer. You’re most likely to find it in sunscreen, so be sure to read your labels carefully before you buy.
Why Are These Toxic Ingredients Legal in the United States?
There isn’t one clear answer about why so many of these clearly harmful ingredients are permitted in the United States. However, the fact that the FDA doesn’t have much power over the cosmetics industry at all has a lot to do with it. Unfortunately, there just isn’t much oversight into what goes into the products we use every day. It’s up to us to be mindful about which products we choose to use, and which ingredients we expose ourselves to.
What can you do about it?
Unless you’re planning on moving to Europe soon, here’s what I do to make sure I’m not letting toxic ingredients into my home:
Get familiar with ingredients banned in Europe
You can find a full list of the chemicals banned in the EU here. While you definitely don’t need to memorize the list, it’s a good idea to know the ingredients that are most likely to pop up in the United States. The ingredients I’ve listed above are a great place to start – they’re the ones that are most common in US products.
You’ve heard me say it before, and you’ll hear me say it again – make sure you’re reading the labels before you buy anything that gets applied to your skin, lips, or hair. If it has something you don’t want in it, put it back down. We don’t expect you to understand all of the ingredients, so you can always use the EWG to help you. The Environmental Working Group has a great database just for cosmetics products. You can either check the complete product, or individual ingredients and get a safety rating for each.
Natural beauty products are extremely unlikely to contain ingredients banned in the EU. Instead, they’re made with ingredients that work even better. Most natural beauty companies also choose to get their packaging and ingredients from sustainable sources. I definitely feel more confident that not only are natural products better for me and my family, they’re better for the environment too. And just because the name of the company indicates it is “natural” doesn’t mean it is. Always check your labels.
- Understand the impact of what you buy: Demand is what determines what manufacturers make – and what they don’t. When you buy a bottle of shampoo filled with toxic chemicals, you’re not just inviting dangerous ingredients into your home, you’re also saying “I love how you’re making your shampoo! Please make more just like it!” The same goes for natural products. When you choose to purchase natural beauty products, you’re letting conventional brands know that you don’t like what they’re doing. The fewer people purchase items with toxic ingredients, the less incentive there is for businesses to make them. You have seen this a lot in the food industry recently.
So, in a nutshell…
There are a lot of cheap, sketchy, and downright toxic ingredients available on US shelves. And unlike Europe, we probably won’t be able to rely on regulations to keep them out of our homes. If you’re concerned about the products available to you and your family, it’s time to get smart about what you buy. Avoid dangerous chemicals, choose products that use natural ingredients, and stay informed about the different ingredients out there. Trust me – you’ll be glad you did!
BHA and BHT
The flavor enhancers and preservatives BHA and BHT are subject to severe restrictions in Europe but are widely used in American food products. While evidence on BHT is mixed, BHA is listed in a United States government report on carcinogens as “reasonably anticipated” to be a human carcinogen.
Brominated Vegetable Oil (BVO)
BVO is used in some citrus-flavored soft drinks like Mountain Dew and in some sports drinks to prevent separation of ingredients, but it is banned in Europe. It contains bromine, the element found in brominated flame retardants, and studies suggest it can build up in the body and can potentially lead to memory loss and skin and nerve problems. An F.D.A. spokeswoman said it is safe in limited amounts, and that the agency would take action “should new safety studies become available that raise questions about the safety of BVO.”
Yellow food dyes No. 5 and No. 6, and Red Dye No. 40
These dyes can be used in foods sold in Europe, but the products must carry a warning saying the coloring agents “may have an adverse effect on activity and attention in children.” No such warning is required in the United States, though the Center for Science in the Public Interest petitioned the F.D.A. in 2008 to ban the dyes. Consumers can try to avoid the dyes by reading lists of ingredients on labels, “but they’re used in so many things you wouldn’t even think of, not just candy and icing and cereal, but things like mustard and ketchup,” marshmallows, chocolate, and breakfast bars that appear to contain fruit, Ms. Lefferts, the food safety scientist, said.
The F.D.A.’s website says reactions to food coloring are rare, but acknowledges that yellow dye No. 5, used widely in drinks, desserts, processed vegetables and drugs, may cause itching and hives.
Farm Animal Drugs
The European Union also bans some drugs that are used on farm animals in the United States, citing health concerns. These drugs include bovine growth hormone, which the United States dairy industry uses to increase milk production. The European Union also does not allow the drug ractopamine, used in the United States to increase weight gain in pigs, cattle and turkeys before slaughter, saying that “risks to human health cannot be ruled out.” An F.D.A. spokeswoman said the drugs are safe.
Do you have a health question? Ask Well
On Cosmetics Safety, U.S. Trails More Than 40 Nations
By and Scott Faber, Senior VP, Government Affairs Wednesday, March 20, 2019
U.S. regulation of chemicals and contaminants in cosmetics is falling behind the rest of the world, according to an EWG analysis.
More than 40 nations – ranging from major industrialized economies like the United Kingdom and Germany to developing states like Cambodia and Vietnam – have enacted regulations specifically targeting the safety and ingredients of cosmetics and personal care products. Some of these nations have restricted or completely banned more than 1,400 chemicals from cosmetic products. By contrast, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has banned or restricted only nine chemicals for safety reasons.
Among the toxic chemicals that have been banned or restricted around the globe are:
- Formaldehyde. Regulators in some nations subject formaldehyde, a known carcinogen, and chemicals that release formaldehyde, to tight restrictions. But similar restrictions are not placed on formaldehyde and formaldehyde releasers used in cosmetics and other personal care products sold in the U.S.
- Parabens. Parabens are regulated in Japan, the EU and the Southeast Asian nations, where officials have set maximum concentration standards. In the EU and Southeast Asian nations, some parabens that EWG found in U.S. products (isobutyl and isopropyl parabens) are not permitted in any cosmetic product.
- PFOA. Beginning in July 2020, the use of PFOA – one of the thousands of fluorinated compounds known as PFAS – will be restricted in cosmetics and other personal care products sold in the EU. But there are no such restrictions on this carcinogen in the U.S. EWG found 13 PFAS compounds in nearly 200 cosmetics and other personal care products.
- Triclosan. The FDA has banned the use of triclosan, which disrupts the hormone system, in antiseptic wash products like liquid hand soaps, but not in other consumer products. By contrast, more than 40 other nations restrict the amount of triclosan in consumer products.
- Toluene. This chemical, linked to reproductive and neurological harm, is restricted in nail products in Europe and Southeast Asian nations, but can be used at any level in cosmetics sold in the U.S.
Many of these toxic chemicals and contaminants are also being phased out of the store-brand products offered by U.S. retailers even though they are still legal in this country. CVS Health, Target, Rite Aid and Walgreens have publicly committed to restricting or banning many of these chemicals from their own cosmetic brands in coming years.
How America Can Catch Up to the World
Federal cosmetics law was put in place in 1938, and has not kept up with the changes to the industry, even though some retailers and other countries have. There are efforts in the current Congress to modernize the lax regulation and keep pace with the international community. Sens. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) and Susan Collins (R-Maine) have introduced legislation to give the FDA more power to review and, if needed, regulate or even ban chemicals of concern.
But states are not waiting for Congress to act. Two California state legislators have introduced legislation to ban 20 of the worst chemicals and contaminants in cosmetics. A Connecticut state senator has introduced legislation to subject U.S. cosmetics to the same standards as those adopted by the EU.
Legislation Would Ban These “Toxic Twenty” Chemicals in Cosmetics Sold in California
See details on these chemicals, their uses and their health effects here.
Mercury and related compounds, including thimerosal
PFAS (per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances)
Lead and related compounds
Source: EWG, from California Assembly Bill 495