It’s a common stereotype around the world that US citizens are fat and unhealthy — and that has a lot to do with our diets. Many countries have banned some of our most popular foods, from certain ingredients in your McDonald’s hamburger to your Kraft Mac n’ Cheese.
Books like Mira Calton’s Rich Food, Poor Food and other sources have spread information on what foods have been deemed unsafe by foreign governments — and why. Recently, a list of some of the top 10 forbidden ingredients has been floating around the Internet.
Artificially colored food such as Yellow 5, Red 40 and six other dyes are known as the “rainbow of risk” by the Center for Science in the Public Interest. These dyes, made from petroleum and coal tar, help enhance foods such as Fruit Loops and granola bars. They’re banned in Norway, Finland, France, Austria and the U.K.
Chicken with arsenic is banned in the European Union. Arsenic in used in chicken feed to reduce parasites, making chickens grow faster and giving their meat more color. Of course, it also gives the chicken we eat arsenic, which is known to cause lung, bladder and skin cancers.
Drinks with brominated vegetable oil (BVO) are banned in more than 100 countries. You can find bromine in PepsiCo’s Mountain Dew and carpets, where it is meant to be a flame retardent.
Breads with potassium bromateusebromated flour, which assists in breads’ rising efficiency, has been banned in Europe, Canada and China — even California declared it a carcinogen in 1991. Potassium bromate has been linked to thyroid and kidney cancers.
Frozen dinners with azodicarbonamide, a chemical that bleaches and stabilizes flour, is banned in Australia, the U.K. and most European countries. It’s found in frozen TV dinners, packaged baked goods and some breads, and in foamed items such as sneakers and yoga mats. It’s been associated with asthma.
Food preserved with BHA and BHT is banned in the U.K., Japan and many European countries, while the debate over their safety is ongoing in the US. These preservatives are added to cereal, nut mixes, gum, butter, meat and dehydrated potatoes to keep them from turning rancid.
Milk with rBGH and rBST, also known as bovine growth hormones have been linked to cancer and infertility. They have therefore been banned in Australia, New Zealand, Canada, Japan and the European Union. These synthetic hormones are given to cows and found in milk and other dairy products.
Finally, chips with Olestra or Olean, a fat substitute used in fat-free chips like Ruffles Wow, can produce cramps and leaky bowels. These ingredients are banned in the U.K. and Canada.
This list is certainly not all-inclusive and the consequences of what they may cause are overwhelming. While we rely heavily on the FDA to protect us from proven dangerous foods, we can’t forget to pay attention to the foods we eat and the ingredients they contain.