8 Popular American Foods BANNED in Other Countries

80% of Processed Foods are Banned Outside the U.S.

Written by Alex Reid
Posted June 27, 2013

You may be under the impression that if you buy something at the grocery store, it's probably safe to eat. After all, that's why we have institutions like the FDA and USDA, to regulate what's being sold and ensure that food is safe for consumption.

However, with the abundance of GMOs (genetically modified organisms) in our foods, and the reluctance to require labeling, it's becoming all too clear that these institutions are being motivated by something even more powerful than the public's health: their wallets. With the heavy influence of big corporations on the government, politicians are more likely to put our health and well-being on the line than risk losing the support of major companies.

In their new book Rich Food Poor Food, husband and wife nutrition team Mira and Jayson Calton investigate this issue and bring you the ultimate 'Grocery Purchasing System' (GPS). In their book, the Caltons identify ingredients which have been linked to serious health issues but are still allowed in our foods, despite being banned in many other developed countries. They term these items "Banned Bad Boys," and detail exactly where you'll find them and why they're so harmful. As a rule, don't purchase any food item containing any of these BBBs:

Food Dyes – Blue 1, blue 2, yellow 5, yellow 6

Commonly found in: Cakes, candy, macaroni and cheese, medicines, sports drinks, soda, pet food, cheese

Why it's harmful: Food coloring agents are made from coal tar (also an active ingredient in lice shampoo), and contain petroleum. They have been linked to allergies, ADHD, and cancer in animals. Some of the dyes allowed in the U.S. are banned in France, Finland, Austria, and Norway. 

Why it's allowed anyway: Research shows that foods left in their natural state (a beige-like color) were less appealing to consumers than those brightly colored with artificial dyes, so companies continue adding these chemicals to their foods. The bottom line: if they think it will help to sell more products, food companies are willing to gamble with your health.

Olestra – Also known as "Olean"

Commonly found in: low/no-fat snack foods like potato chips

 Why it's harmful: According the Calton, "this fat substitute appears to cause a dramatic depletion of fat-soluble vitamins and carotenoids, robbing us of the vital micro-nutrients." In layman's terms this ingredient cause severe gastrointestinal problems like gas and diarrhea and even "oily anal leakage" (though the FDA stopped requiring companies to disclose this fact in 2003). Olestra is banned in the U.K. And Canada.

Why it's allowed anyway: Proctor and Gamble Co. spent 25 years and $500 million to develop "healthier" chips. The low-fat craze promoted by these brands keeps them in business.

Brominated vegetable oil – BVO

Commonly found in: Citrus-flavored sodas and sports drinks

Why it's harmful: Also found in pool cleaner, and the stuff used to make carpets less flammable, BVO is shown to cause all different thyroid diseases and is banned in over 100 countries.

Why it's allowed anyway: BVO prevents flavoring from separating and floating to the surface of beverages.

Potassium Bromate – Brominated flour

Commonly found in: Rolls, wraps, flatbread, bread crumbs, bagel chips

Why it's harmful: The chemical found in this additive (bromine) is associated with kidney and nervous system disorders and gastrointestinal discomfort. This ingredient is outlawed in Europe, Canada, and China. Calton notes that "while the FDA has not banned the use of bromated flour, they do urge bakers to voluntarily leave it out."

Why it's allowed anyway: Bakers aren't likely to follow that advice anytime soon however; potassium bromate lowers baking costs by strengthening dough and thereby reducing time needed to bake.


Commonly found in: Breads, frozen dinners, boxed pasta, packaged baked goods

Why it's harmful: Also used in bleach and yoga mats, this chemical has been linked to asthma. The FDA labels azodicarbonamide "approved to be a bleaching agent in cereal flour." Not only is it banned in most European countries, but in Singapore its use carries a nearly $500,000 fine and up to 15 years in prison.

Why it's allowed anyway: Instead of waiting a week for flour to naturally whiten, food processors in the U.S. use this ingredient to speed up the process and increase productivity.

Butylated hydroxyanisole (BHA) & butylated hydroxytoluene (BHT)

Commonly found in: Cereals, gum, meat, butter, dehydrated potatoes, beer

Why it's harmful: These waxy preservatives used to prolong the shelf-life of foods are banned in the U.K. along with several other European nations and Japan because they have been proven carcinogenic (cancer-causing) to rats. California is the only state in the U.S. to recognize the NIH report confirming this link.

Why it's allowed anyway: Longer shelf-life = lower production costs.

Synthetic Hormones – rBGH and rBST

Commonly found in: Milk and dairy products

Why it's harmful: Cows pumped with these hormones often suffer from a myriad of health disorders, from becoming lame or infertile, or developing inflamed and infected udders. The milk they produce is filled with insulin growth factor -1 (IGF-1) and has been linked to breast, colon, and prostate cancers. Both of these hormones are banned by the EU.

Why it's allowed anyway: Synthetic hormones can boost milk production by about 10%.


Commonly found in: Poultry

Why it's harmful: Arsenic is approved by the FDA for use in chicken feed even though it is classified as a human carcinogen by the EPA. In large amounts, arsenic is lethal to humans, and it has been outlawed in Europe since 1999.

Why it's allowed anyway: Arsenic is used to promote growth and improve efficiency in feeding chicken and turkey. It also makes the meat appear pinker, and therefore fresher, to consumers.

As the Caltons make it painfully obvious, we simply cannot trust the FDA to be on our side when it comes to banning dangerous chemicals from foods. It's up to the consumer to be aware of what we're buying and to let companies know that we won't continue to purchase these products while our health is on the line. Start by checking all food labels for these dangerous additives so you can learn what to avoid. Always stick to free-range, grass-fed organic meats and by as little processed food as possible.

For more information on the Caltons' book, check out their website. 


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