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What's in Your Food? 7 Ingredients Banned Abroad

Why are some food additives allowed in the United States but banned in other countries? Several controversial ingredients are still permitted in the US food supply, despite being restricted or banned elsewhere. Here are the top additives you'll want to avoid and look out for in our food supply and where they're commonly found.

# 1 Artificial Food Dyes

Linked to hyperactivity in children and potential carcinogenic effects [1]. These food colors are banned or labeled with warnings in the European Union and other countries: 

  1. Green No. 3 (Fast Green): Not approved for use in the EU[2].
  2. Red No. 40 (Allura Red), Yellow No. 5 (Tartrazine), and Yellow No. 6 (Sunset Yellow) are all permitted in the EU but require a warning label stating it "may have an adverse effect on activity and attention in children."[1]

• These dyes are commonly found in candies, cereals, and processed snacks.

#2 Brominated Vegetable Oil (BVO)

• Associated with organ damage and other health issues [2]. Banned in the European Union and Japan. • Often used in soft drinks and sports drinks.

#3 Potassium Bromate

Classified as a possible human carcinogen [3] by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC). Banned in the European Union, Canada, and other countries. • Used to improve flour in bread products.

#4 Butylated Hydroxyanisole (BHA) 

Synthetic antioxidant with potential carcinogenic effects [4]. BHA is banned in Japan and parts of the European Union. • Commonly found in processed foods, such as chips and cereals.

#5 Butylated Hydroxytoluene (BHT)

Like BHA, BHT is a synthetic antioxidant with potential carcinogenic effects [4]. BHT is banned in the United Kingdom. • Commonly found in processed foods, such as chips and cereals.

#6 Recombinant Bovine Growth Hormone (rBGH) or rBST

Linked to an increased risk of cancer and other health issues[5]. Banned in the European Union, Canada, and other countries. There are a lot of defenses for use of these hormones by American farmers and American dairy associations, but when the EU, Canada and other countries ban it, it's worth avoiding. • Used to increase milk production in US dairy cows. Look for "free of rBGH or rBST" on all dairy products.

#7 Azodicarbonamide

Associated with respiratory issues and classified as a possible human carcinogen [6]. Banned in the European Union and Australia.• Used as a dough conditioner and bleaching agent in bread products.

Bottom Line: Protect your health and loved ones, read ingredient labels, and opt for whole, unprocessed foods whenever possible. Stay informed about food safety and advocate for stricter regulations to safeguard our food supply.

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[1] McCann, D. et al. (2007). Food additives and hyperactive behaviour in 3-year-old and 8/9-year-old children in the community: a randomised, double-blinded, placebo-controlled trial. The Lancet, 370(9598), 1560-1567. 

[2] Kurokawa, Y., Maekawa, A., Takahashi, M., & Hayashi, Y. (1990). Toxicity and carcinogenicity of potassium bromate—a new renal carcinogen. Environmental Health Perspectives, 87, 309-335. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1567851/

[3] International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC). (1999). Potassium bromate. IARC Monographs on the Evaluation of Carcinogenic Risks to Humans, 73, 481-504. 

[4] European Food Safety Authority (EFSA). (2011). Scientific Opinion on the re-evaluation of butylated hydroxyanisole – BHA (E 320) as a food additive. EFSA Journal, 9(10), 2392. 

[5] Daxenberger, A., & Sauerwein, H. (2009). Increased milk levels of insulin-like growth factor 1 (IGF-1) for the identification of bovine somatotropin (bST) treated cows. Analyst, 124(4), 607-612. 

[6] World Health Organization (WHO). (1999). Azodicarbonamide. Concise International Chemical Assessment Document



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