When we choose our foods, we hope to find products that are full of flavor and nutrition. However, many of the items that line the shelves of American grocery stores are loaded with ingredients that are undecipherable and quite unhealthy. In the US, we are regularly ingesting chemicals so dangerous that many countries around the world have banned their use. However, American food manufacturers have free rein in pumping these substances into our food supply.
Brominated Vegetable Oil (BVO) is common to citrus-flavored soft drinks and flame retardant. Overexposure to BVO is linked to nerve disorders and memory loss. The FDA reversed its designation of BVO as safe, but the agency still permits the use of BVO while more research is underway. Recently, PepsiCo and Coca-Cola opted to replace BVO with more natural ingredients in their products, but Mountain Dew still contains it as of early 2018. The European Union, India, and Japan have banned BVO in their countries.
The World Health Organization lists arsenic as a leading public health concern and confirmed carcinogen. This infamously poisonous chemical is found naturally in water and soil, but it is abnormally higher in the US and some other countries. This means that arsenic can sneak into our diets through drinking water and crops, making our animal- and plant-based foods all potential sources of this chemical. Further, the FDA has approved arsenic as an additive to poultry feed, and the agency actually defends low levels of arsenic in foods.
Although the European Commission prohibited the use of synthetic growth hormones in the early 1980s, The FDA approved the use of hormones rBST and rBGH in cows in the 1990s. These hormones are known to cause health issues and birth defects in cows. However, products from cows injected with them are not required to be labeled accordingly.
Olestra, also known as Olean, has earned a place among the worst inventions according to Time. The FDA, on the other hand, has given it a thumbs up. This chemical was created as a fat-free alternative to cooking oil to be used in low-calorie versions of processed foods such as potato chips, fries, and frozen yogurt. Ironically, olestra increases the appetite. It also causes extreme diarrhea and gastrointestinal disease. Canada and several European nations have banned Olestra.
Food processors use artificial food dyes to add color and appeal to their products. Colorings such as Red 40, Yellow 5, and Yellow 6 are linked to cancer, allergies, and hyperactivity, yet the FDA has approved their use in food products sold in America. Fortunately, some food producers are now voluntarily excluding synthetic dyes from their products and replacing them with natural colorants. American products sold overseas, such as M & Ms, contain naturally derived color additives instead.
Azodicarbonamide (ADA) is a dough conditioner and whitening agent commonly used in bread dough and cereal flour. It is also used in the manufacture of yoga mats. The World Health Organization has noted a link between ADA and cancer, but the FDA regards this unnecessary additive as safe. Food franchises Subway, McDonald’s, and Wendy’s have done away with ADA in response to national furor over its use.