A movement toward eating more fresh, natural foods is sweeping the nation. With the organic food industry booming and “farm-to-table” restaurants gaining popularity, we are beginning to look past processed foods and make more conscious decisions about what we put in our bodies.
Reading and understanding nutrition labels has helped me make decisions at the grocery store, but I tend to put more emphasis on calories, fat, sodium and sugar, and ignore the ingredients list. If food in the U.S. is FDA approved, it has to be safe, right? Unfortunately, that is not always the case.
In their book “Rich Food, Poor Food,” nutritionist Mira Calton and Jayson Calton, Ph.D., include a list of ingredients that are legal in the U.S., according to the FDA, but are banned in other countries. The most common are artificial food dyes, which are found in most American food products to make them look more appealing, including cake mixes, sports drinks, cereal and boxed macaroni and cheese. These dyes are banned in Norway, Finland, Austria, France and the United Kingdom because they are derived from petroleum (the chemical used to make gasoline and asphalt), and some have been linked to hyperactivity, cancer and cell deterioration.
Other banned ingredients include:
- Olestra – banned in the United Kingdom and Canada because it restricts the body’s ability to absorb essential vitamins and can cause cramping, bloating and loose bowels.
- Brominated vegetable oil – banned in more than 100 countries because it can lead to organ damage, heart disease, reproductive damage and behavior problems.
- Potassium bromate – banned in Europe, Canada and China because of links to kidney failure and cell deterioration.
- Azodicarbonaminde – banned in Australia and most European countries because it could be a potential cause of asthma.
- Butylated hydroxyanisole (BHA) and butylated hydroxytoluene (BHT) – banned in Japan and many European countries because it can impair blood clotting and promote tumor growth.
- Recombinant bovine growth hormone (rBGH) or recombinant bovine somatotropin (rBST) – banned in Australia, New Zealand, Canada, Japan and the European Union because it has been linked to colon and breast cancer.
- Roxarsone – banned in the European Union; poultry treated with this chemical has had traces of arsenic, a class 1 carcinogen that is highly toxic to humans.
For the sake of your health, it is important to make informed decisions about what you feed yourself and your family. It is always best to make your meals at home using natural ingredients. I have found that usually it is just as easy to cook from scratch as from boxed mixes — it just may take a few minutes longer. If you have kids, get them involved in the cooking routine. They will enjoy spending quality time in the kitchen, and they will learn from your example.