What do a yoga mat, sneaker soles and a loaf of Wonder Bread have in common? All contain azodicarbonamide, a chemical primarily used in foam plastics but also used to bleach flour.
Azodicarbonamide (which I’m not even going to pretend to know how to pronounce) is one of several chemicals banned in other countries but allowed in US foods.
Released just this past February, the book Rich Food Poor Food: The Ultimate Grocery Purchasing System (GPS) uncovered these additives and exactly why they are still being used in food production despite their detrimental health effects. Nutritionist Mira Calton and her husband Jayson Calton, Ph.D. underwent a six-year journey, traveling to over 100 countries and studying more than 150 ingredients, in order to put together a list of the top 13 chemical additives that have been banned by foreign governments yet are still used in the US food industry, to the detriment of consumers.
- (1-4) Artificial coloring agents blue 1, blue 2, yellow 5, and yellow 6 are found in an array of processed food items including cake and cake mixes, candy, macaroni and cheese, medicines, sport drinks, soda, pet food, and cheese, artificial dyes are used to make foods to seem more visually appealing to consumers. Don’t be fooled, however. “Today most artificial colors are made from coal tar, which is also used to seal-coat products to preserve and protect the shine of industrial floors… It also appears in head lice shampoos to kill off the small bugs.” How yummy.
- (5) Olestra/Olean is found in fat-free potato chips, “this fat substitute appears to cause a dramatic depletion of fat-soluble vitamins and carotenoids, robbing us of the vital micro-nutrients.” For this reason, many countries, including the U.K. and Canada, have banned it. It has been dubbed one of “The Worst 50 Inventions” by TIME.
- (6 & 7) BHA and BHT are found in cereal, nut mixes/trail mixes, gum, butter, meat, dehydrated potatoes, and beer. California is the only state that recognizes the U.S. National Institute of Health’s report that BHA is may be a human carcinogen, a cancer-causing agent.
- (8) Azodicarbonamide is found in breads, frozen dinners, boxed pasta mixes, and packaged baked goods. While most countries wait a week for flour to naturally whiten, American food companies prefer to use this chemical to bleach the flour ASAP. This chemical has been linked to asthma and is primarily used in foamed plastics, like yoga mats and sneaker soles.
- (9) Arsenic is added to chicken feed to promote growth, improve efficiency in feeding the birds, and boost pigmentation, which gives them the appearance of being more healthy and fresher. The chemical ends up in the final product, the conveniently packaged poultry found in a grocery store near you. The EU has outlawed the use of arsenic since 1999. Though the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) classifies inorganic arsenic as a “human carcinogen,” it is still allowed to be used in chicken feed.
- (10 & 11) Synthetic hormones rBGH and rBST are found in milk and dairy products because they are injected in cows to boost milk production by about 10 percent. As with arsenic, these hormones end up in the final product and eventually in the consumer. The milk is supercharged with IGF-1 (insulin growth factor -1), which has been linked to breast, colon, and prostate cancers. (Read more about these hormones here.)
- (12) Potassium bromate (aka brominated flour) is found in rolls, wraps, flatbread, bread crumbs, and bagel chips. It helps strengthen dough which reduces the amount of time needed for baking, lowering overall costs. It has been associated with kidney and nervous system disorders as well as gastrointestinal discomfort. Strangely, “while the FDA has not banned the use of bromated flour, they do urge bakers to voluntarily leave it out.” Furthermore, bromine is a poisonous chemical that is considered both corrosive and toxic and has been linked to major organ system damage, birth defects, growth problems, schizophrenia, and hearing loss, which explains why it’s been nixed in more than 100 countries.
- (13) Brominated vegetable oil (aka BVO) is found in sports drinks and citrus-flavored sodas since it prevents the flavoring from separating and floating to the surface of these beverages. “Because it competes with iodine for receptor sites in the body, elevated levels of the stuff may lead to thyroid issues, such as hypothyroidism, autoimmune disease, and cancer.”
The bottom line: avoid these ingredients at all costs! Double check those ingredient labels and as soon as you see one of these nasties, put that baby right back on the shelf.
To learn more, pick up a copy of Rich Food Poor Food: The Ultimate Grocery Purchasing System (GPS).
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