Globally Banned Additives You'll Find in Your Grocery Bag
When it comes to food additives, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration lets a lot of things slide. It’s often up to individual companies to decide which ingredients they choose to include in their foods. Canada, Europe, and some countries of Asia have banned a myriad of harmful ingredients that the FDA still allows in foods we eat every day.
The result is that the responsibility to make healthy, safe decisions is left up to the consumer. When possible, opt for whole foods over processed ones to minimize your exposure to potentially harmful food additives. If you do buy processed foods, try to buy organic and make sure the ingredients list is relatively small and includes ingredients you could find in your pantry or a grocery store. Look for products that clearly state that they are free of any specific additives, preservatives, and hormones.
Luckily, as more consumers are becoming more health-conscious, many major brands are removing harmful ingredients even if they’re FDA approved. Examples include high-fructose corn syrup and artificial colors and flavors. But it’s not enough. Here are just a few ingredients that are banned in other countries that are still legal in the US:
Potassium Bromate is a rising agent in flour. It’s often labeled as bleached, bromated and enriched — but it has been linked to kidney and thyroid cancer. Logically, a handful of regions including Argentina, Brazil, Canada, Europe, Nigeria, South Korea, and Peru have all banned the additive. But in the US, consumers still need to watch out for bromated flour in some store-bought bread products like hamburger buns and bagels.
The best way to ensure your bread is free of potassium bromate is to source it from a local bakery that uses the fewest, most natural ingredients possible. Plus, it supports local businesses!
BHA and BHT
Butylated Hydroxyanisole (BHA) and Butylated Hydroxytoluene (BHT) prevent oils in food from oxidizing, and are therefore used as preservatives. BHA is considered a human carcinogen and both BHA and BHT can promote tumor growth and impair blood clotting. They’ve been banned in Japan, Europe, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand.
Look out for these artificial preservatives in store-bought cereals like Froot Loops, Frosted Flakes, and Cinnamon Toast Crunch. If carcinogenic preservatives weren’t reason enough to stay away, sugary cereals like these can spike your blood sugar and lead to crashes throughout the day. Opt for a whole-grain cereal or granola instead.
Artificial colors have been linked to hyperactivity and inattention in children, and were therefore banned in the European Union. However, in the US, you can find them in everything from chips and pizza sauce to frosting and candy. Even vanilla frostings may contain artificial dyes to achieve a perfectly white color.
Whether you’re shopping or making food coloring from scratch, some natural food dyes include annatto extract, beet juice, carrot, paprika, saffron, spirulina, and turmeric.
Brominated Vegetable Oil
Brominated Vegetable Oil (BVO) is a chemical used in soft drinks and energy drinks to keep them from separating. It often gives drinks a cloudy appearance like in Mountain Dew and Sun Drop. Unfortunately, it’s toxic in high amounts, causing headaches, fatigue, memory loss, and loss of muscle coordination. BVO has been banned in Japan, Europe, and India. But if you’re trying to make healthier choices, we recommend bubbly waters like Topo Chico or La Croix in place of soda, whether or not it has BVO.
rbGH and rbST
Recombinate Bovine Growth Hormone (rbGH) and Recombinate Bovine Somatotropin (rbST) are artificial growth hormones that increase milk production in cows. Japan, Europe, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand have banned these hormones due to health risks for the cows. There are also ongoing studies on rbGH and rbST and increased risk for human colon, pancreas, breast and prostate cancer. It’s hard to spot these hormones because they’re not listed in ingredients lists, so opt for the most natural and organic dairy products you can find.
With so much information available on harmful products and their effects on our bodies, making healthy choices has never been easier. To see which brands are improving their ingredients and to learn some smart shopping tips, check out the infographic below: