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Chemicals additives banned in other countries but allowed in US foods

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

These 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

This chemical additive 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

These chemicals 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

This chemical additive 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

Yep, Arsenic. It 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

These synthetic hormones 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)

This chemical additive 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)

This chemical additive 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.”

chemical additives banned in other countries used in US food

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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Disclaimer: The content of Body Unburdened either through this website, social media pages, or any other materials distributed by Body Unburdened is intended to provide helpful and informative material. I am not a doctor or a “registered dietitian,” and I do not provide medical advice or treat diseases.

Share Your Thoughts

  1. Thank you SO much for this chart! This breaks my heart and makes me angry all at the same time. I am passionate about spreading the word about the food crisis in America and helping people know that they have a choice! I shared it on my blog! Thank you again.

    March 26, 2013 • 11:06 am •

    Too much kick food and if you can’t pronounce it it’s not good for you

    March 31, 2013 • 12:01 am •
  3. thanks for sharing this info from our book RICH FOOD POOR FOOD!

    April 2, 2013 • 2:52 pm •
  4. Nadia

    Hi, Mira! Thank YOU for writing it! The info you uncovered is priceless and I hope it will help many start living a healthier lifestyle by becoming more conscious label-checkers and eliminating these nasties from their diets. P.S. I am so honored you are visiting Body Unburdened! I can’t wait to see what you and your husband uncover next :)

    April 3, 2013 • 12:10 pm •
  5. Nadia

    Thanks for visiting and sharing, Ashley! I know, it is very disappointing. But by educating ourselves and becoming aware (which you are obviously doing!) we can avoid these nasties and become healthier. Please check out a new section of the site “Healthy Food Matches” which I think you’ll also enjoy!

    April 3, 2013 • 12:58 pm •
  6. Great Article! I went right to my pantry and started looking at ingrediants.

    FYI – King Author has never used any kind of Bromates in producing thier flour. Pilsbury and Entemenns did use bromates, but since the research on cancer linkagess, they have stopped producing flour with the use of bromates.

    Again, good article, I will continue to research the other ingrediants mentioned above and in the pictures.

    April 4, 2013 • 11:49 am •
  7. John

    Heres the only label you need to read… when it says this.. it really means dont eat it.

    April 21, 2013 • 9:36 pm •
  8. […] it, that’s what we need when there is just SO. MUCH. to consider – GMOs, pesticides, additives that have been banned in other countries, certified organic ingredients that are actually detrimental to our health – oy oy […]

    May 25, 2013 • 5:11 pm •
  9. I simply don’t understand how a person could approve these chemicals for consumption and then sleep at night. I would be wrought with guilt.

    May 29, 2013 • 3:50 pm •
  10. Kathy

    Thank you for this! I really appreciate it! Love this site!

    May 31, 2013 • 6:51 pm •
  11. […] Chemicals banned in other countries but allowed in US foods […]

    June 2, 2013 • 3:11 pm •
  12. […] see other chemicals that have banned by other countries that are still allowed for use in the US, click here). In response to this legislation and public concern, certain American companies like Kellogg’s, […]

    June 30, 2013 • 9:46 pm •
  13. Thank you so much for putting this together and disseminating the information. It’s important that we understand and are aware of the dangers in processed and also non-procssed foods. I’ve shared with my readers on FB.

    July 1, 2013 • 1:47 am •
  14. July 14, 2013 • 1:18 pm •
  15. Arsenic is not currently in commercial poultry and has not been in poultry since 2011. The only feed ingredient that contained arsenic was 3-Nitro (Rosarsone) and sale of the substance was suspended in 2011 ( My husband has a PhD in Poultry Nutrition and works in the poultry industry helping companies formulate diets (there are only about 60 poultry nutritionists in the country so everyone knows everyone etc). Since this product is not currently available there is no arsenic fed to chickens. Also, every living thing actually has a nutritional requirement for arsenic (however small) including humans. It is only when you get excess doses of it there are problems.

    July 14, 2013 • 6:27 pm •
  16. Nadia

    Hi, Rachel. My apologies for the delay in responding. I went away for the weekend with my family.

    I will say that this is the first I have heard of this and will certainly look into it and edit the post accordingly. Thank you for bringing it to my attention.

    July 15, 2013 • 12:34 pm •
  17. […] Read More at […]

    August 1, 2013 • 9:39 pm •
  18. […] you subscribe to the Village Green Network, you may have already seen this featured post. The article details 13 chemical additives found in foods sold in the US, some of which are […]

    August 7, 2013 • 4:26 pm •
  19. […] other food additives that have banned by other countries yet are still allowed for use in the US, click here). In response to this legislation and public concern, certain American companies like Kellogg’s, […]

    November 20, 2013 • 7:16 pm •
  20. […] BVO is legally allowed as a food additive in Latin American and North American countries (including the U.S. and Canada), but is banned in Japan and the European Union. It is just one of many chemicals banned in other countries yet used in US foods. […]

    January 7, 2014 • 5:09 pm •
  21. […] Water, Alcohol (21.6%) [ORAL CANCER], Sorbitol Solution, Flavoring, Poloxamer 407, Benzoic Acid [ORGAN SYSTEM TOXICITY], Sodium Saccharin, Sodium Benzoate [ORGAN SYSTEM TOXICITY], FD&C Blue 1 [ORGAN SYSTEM TOXICITY; has actually been banned for use in other countries] […]

    March 27, 2014 • 10:05 pm •
  22. Cynthia

    Rachel and Nadia,
    I , also, have not “heard” that arsenic has not been used in chicken feed since 2011. PLEASE let us remember that (1) there are two types of arsenic-organic, which occurs naturally in our environment and is not nearly as toxic to our bodies, and inorganic arsenic, which does not occur naturally in our environment and IS toxic to our systems. Inorganic arsenic is the type that is used in farming applications such as poultry feed. Point (2) is that Rachel, your father has a vested interest in this type of information remaining out of the hands of the general public, so that poultry sales remain optimal. No offense, but I really have a hard time accepting the word of an industry insider as completely honest and reliable.

    April 11, 2014 • 12:40 pm •
  23. 1. As stated in the article I cited ORGANIC arsenic is what was used in 3-Nitro not inorganic. New research showed that the arsenic was being converted into inorganic once ingested by the chicken and is the reason the product was pulled from the market.

    2. At the time I posted my original reply the product had been removed from the market. Since then it has been banned by the FDA.

    3. Overall poultry sales would not be hurt by this information. Worldwide poultry is and will continue to be the cheapest source of protein for people to consume – the demand is not going anywhere. Regardless of whether this product is on the market or not my husband will continue to have a job. We have no skin in the game so to say one way or the other on this topic. In fact if people continue to believe stuff like this and it drives them to buy “premium” chicken (All Natural/Hormone Free/ Cage Free) it only helps the poultry industry (and I guess my husband) since there is no difference from “regular” chicken except a higher price tag. So I guess I should really just keep my mouth shut . . .

    4. Given everything we know about chicken in my household we always have and will continue to buy the cheapest chicken and eggs available on the market. As an “industry insider” I should know more than most if there was a problem and a need to steer clear.

    April 11, 2014 • 4:02 pm •
  24. I choose not to eat sick chickens or eggs that are unnaturally rushed through the chickens gestation process producing tasteless eggs with thin shells. Chickens eat bugs, not vegetarian diets. It is not part of their natural diet to eat grains – therefore a happy chicken from a small farm that is allowing them to feed on the ground without GMO corn gets all my business. Not sure where you’re from but chicken is NOT the cheapest form of protein – beans and legumes are.

    April 24, 2014 • 4:10 pm •
  25. […] gums on the shelves contain BHT and artificial coloring agents, which are chemical ingredients that have been BANNED in other countries but are allowed for use in the US food…. Both have been linked to […]

    May 4, 2014 • 9:48 pm •
  26. […] and disodium inosinate are all fancy/deceiving names for MSG. BHA and BHT have actually been banned for use in other countries. Partially hydrogenated oils = trans fats = health nightmare. And propyl gallate has been linked to […]

    November 20, 2014 • 9:38 am •
  27. […] We’ve got some ingredients that are likely made from genetically modified crops (cornstarch and soy lecithin), HYDROGENATED palm kernel oil (I just can’t even go there), and artificial colors galore (which are derived from coal tar — a known carcinogen — have been linked to behavioral issues in children, and have been banned for use in some countries). […]

    January 18, 2015 • 5:06 pm •

    Thanks For Your Lesson!

    July 3, 2015 • 9:31 pm •
  29. […] ingredients like sugar, high fructose corn syrup, brominated vegetable oil (which has actually been banned in some countries), and artificial colors (some of which have also been banned in other […]

    July 15, 2015 • 1:06 pm •
  30. Dee

    This is in regards to someone stating that it doesn’t matter to them what the public is buying… organic chicken or Chemical fed chickens, their husband is still going to be employed. I am an organic food Buyer. I don’t buy organic food just for the reason alone that my family is eating non poisonous food. But also because of the earth. I just want to remind everybody that there are two reasons why we should be concerned about what is in our food.
    Number 1 being that we are consuming it of course…. but number 2 because it’s not mentioned on here, the things that they are using in our food and animal feeds is also harming our planet and animals on it.
    Thank you kindly

    October 11, 2015 • 1:38 pm •