10 foods to beware in America

Even with the best intentions of making informed health decisions, consumers are faced with a plethora of conflicting information about what foods are healthy and safe.  Corporate interests sway legislation in the US, and the 10 foods below are allowed in the US, even though other governments have reviewed the available data and deemed the foods unsafe for consumption. Decide for yourself whether these 10 foods have a place in your diet:

  1. Milk and Dairy Products Laced with rBGH

    Recombinant Bovine Growth Hormone (or rBGH) is a synthetic version of cow’s natural growth hormones. It’s injected into cows to increase milk production, but 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.

    Where it’s banned: Australia, New Zealand, Israel, EU and Canada

    Despite decades of evidence about the dangers of rBGH, the FDA still maintains it’s safe for human consumption and ignores scientific evidence to the contrary. In 1999, the United Nations Safety Agency ruled unanimously not to endorse or set safety standards for rBGH milk, which has effectively resulted in an international ban on US milk. The Cancer Prevention Coalition, trying for years to get the use of rBGH by the dairy industry banned, resubmitted a petition to FDA Commissioner Margaret Hamburg, MD, in January 2010. Although the FDA stubbornly sticks to its position that milk from rBGH-treated cows is no different than milk from untreated cows, this is just plain false and is not supported by science. The only way to avoid rBGH is to look for products labeled as “rBGH-free” or “No rBGH.”

  2. Genetically Engineered Papaya

    Most Hawaiian papaya is now genetically engineered to be resistant to ringspot virus. Some studies have shown that genetically modified organisms (GMOs) correlate with higher incidence of disease.  Wheat, corn, and soy are usually the crops concerned in the GMO debate, so it is unclear whether GMO papayas have the same potential pitfalls.  Because the papayas are genetically modified so that they are inherently resistant to ringspot virus, farmers do not need to use excessive pesticides, nor do farmers face massive crop failure.

    Where it’s banned: The European Union

    The NY Times berates the EU for banning GMO crops because the biotech industry is now disincentivized from developing crops which could efficiently feed our ever-growing population.

  3. Ractopamine-Tainted Meat

    Ractopamine is a drug given to pigs (and some cows and turkeys) to promote growth of muscle rather than fat, according to NPR.

    Where it’s banned: 160 countries across Europe, Russia, mainland China and Republic of China (Taiwan)

    These countries do not think that there is clear evidence that meat from an animal raised with Ractopamine is safe to eat. China is a major importer of US pork and has put demand on farmers to raise their pigs without the drug.  To avoid this drug, buy organic pork, or look for a label that says “ractopamine-free.”

  4. Citrus-Flavored Sodas and Drinks

    Many of these drinks are produced with the additive BVO, brominated vegetable oil.  According to the CDC, drinking bromine in excess in the short term can cause nausea and vomiting, and long term accumulation of bromine in your system may lead to kidney and lung problems.  Bromine poisoning could happen if you drink 2 liters of a BVO soda in a short time frame.  

    Where it’s banned: Europe and Japan


  5. Artificial Food Dyes

    More than 3,000 food additives — preservatives, flavorings, colors and other ingredients — are added to US foods, including infant foods and foods targeted to young children. Meanwhile, many of these are banned in other countries, based on research showing toxicity and hazardous health effects, especially with respect to adverse effects on children’s behavior.

    Where it’s banned: Norway and Austria. In 2009, the British government advised companies to stop using food dyes by the end of that year. The European Union also requires a warning notice on most foods containing dyes.

    In countries where these food colors and dyes are banned, food companies like Kraft employ natural colorants instead, such as paprika extract, beetroot, and annatto. Read the ingredients list on a product and if you see “Red 40” rather than beet juice, it was produced with artificial food dye.

  6. Arsenic-Laced Chicken

    Arsenic-based drugs are approved for use in animal feed in the US because they make animals grow quicker and make the meat appear pinker (i.e. “fresher”). The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has stated these products are safe because they contain organic arsenic, which is less toxic than the other inorganic form, which is a known carcinogen.

    Where it’s banned: The European Union

    The problem is, scientific reports surfaced stating that the organic arsenic could transform into inorganic arsenic, which has been found in elevated levels in supermarket chickens. The inorganic arsenic also contaminates manure where it can eventually migrate into drinking water and may also be causing heightened arsenic levels in US rice.

    In 2011, Pfizer announced it would voluntarily stop marketing its arsenic-based feed additive Roxarsone, but there are still several others on the market. Several environmental groups have filed a lawsuit against the FDA calling for their removal from the market. In the European Union, meanwhile, arsenic-based compounds have never been approved as safe for animal feed.

  7. Bread with Potassium Bromate

    Potassium Bromate is an additive in flour which ends up in most of the baked goods on American grocery store shelves. According to the Environmental Working Group studies showed the additive to cause cell damage. Damage to DNA and chromosomes is thought to contribute to cancer development.

    Where it’s banned: Brazil, Canada, China and the EU

    Buy unbleached, unbromated flour when you bake, and look for unbromated flour in the ingredients list when you shop.  Talk to your local bakery and express demand for baked goods made with unbromated flour.

  8. Olestra/Olean

    Olestra, aka Olean, created by Procter & Gamble, is a calorie- and cholesterol-free fat substitute used in fat-free snacks like chips and French fries. Three years ago, Time Magazine named it one of the worst 50 inventions ever, but that hasn’t stopped food companies from using it to satisfy people’s mistaken belief that a fat-free snack is a healthier snack. According to the featured article:

    “Not only did a 2011 study from Purdue University conclude rats fed potato chips made with Olean gained weight, there have been several reports of adverse intestinal reactions to the fake fat including diarrhea, cramps and leaky bowels. And 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.”

    Where it’s banned: The UK and Canada

  9. Preservatives BHA and BHT

    BHA (butylated hydroxyanisole) and BHT (butylated hydroxytoluene) are commonly used preservatives that can be found in breakfast cereal, nut mixes, chewing gum, butter spread, meat, dehydrated potatoes, and beer, just to name a few. BHA is known to cause cancer in rats, and may be a cancer-causing agent in humans as well. In fact, according to the US Department of Health and Human Services, National Toxicology Program’s 2011 Report on Carcinogens, BHA “is reasonably anticipated to be a human carcinogen.” It may also trigger allergic reactions and hyperactivity, while BHT can cause organ system toxicity.

    Where it’s banned: The UK doesn’t allow BHA in infant foods. BHA and BHT are also banned in parts of the European Union and Japan.

  10. Farm-Raised Salmon

    Wild salmon gets its bright pinkish-red color from natural carotenoids in their diet. Farmed salmon, on the other hand, are raised on a wholly unnatural diet of grains (including genetically engineered varieties), plus a concoction of antibiotics and other drugs and chemicals not shown to be safe for humans.

    This diet leaves the fish with unappetizing grayish flesh so to compensate, they’re fed synthetic astaxanthin made from petrochemicals, which has not been approved for human consumption and has well known toxicities. According to the featured article, some studies suggest it can potentially damage your eyesight.

    Where it’s banned: Australia and New Zealand

    How can you tell whether a salmon is wild or farm-raised? The flesh of wild sockeye salmon is bright red, courtesy of its natural astaxanthin content. It’s also very lean, so the fat marks, those white stripes you see in the meat, are very thin. If the fish is pale pink with wide fat marks, the salmon is farmed.

    Avoid Atlantic salmon, as typically salmon labeled “Atlantic Salmon” currently comes from fish farms. The two designations you want to look for are: “Alaskan salmon,” and “sockeye salmon,” as Alaskan sockeye is not allowed to be farmed. Please realize that the vast majority of all salmon sold in restaurants is farm raised.

    So canned salmon labeled “Alaskan Salmon” is a good bet, and if you find sockeye salmon, it’s bound to be wild. Again, you can tell sockeye salmon from other salmon by its color; its flesh is bright red opposed to pink, courtesy of its superior astaxanthin content. Sockeye salmon actually has one of the highest concentrations of astaxanthin of any food.

    Article sourced from Eat Local Grown with our own editing and revising.