Chemicals Additives Banned in Other Countries but Allowed in US Foods

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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 Magazine.

(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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  1. What about the food needed to feed the baby and infant that parents intend to have their kids growing faster,will all those food contain some of these bannef chemical mixed in the daily food ?

  2. American companies will maximize their profits in any legal way they can , regardless of what is ‘really right and ethical’ and out the blame for their cheapness and deceit squarely upon the government for not banning it. Obviously if they sell the products in other countries, where the chemicals are suspected or confirmed carcinogens, they are making money, and the chemicals are not necessary. Americans also allow this to happen y taking in the FDA as a fall back, like pointing at a mother naughty older child and saying but he allowed it. It would be best if our food was clean& free of chemicals. Trusting other to behave correctly and not harm you would be wonderful! But, I’m sorry but you won’t like like the taste of shelf stable foods anymore, You won’t like not having whatever you want at the moment you want it anymore. You will not be responsible for yourself knowing profit trumps safety and sense. If you don’t want fake bad food, stop bloody buying it and give up your quick fix addictions. Corporations in general are not for your benefit, they are for theirs. There are a few responsible ones. You have to remember in America legal does not mean good for you, contains actual nutrition, is added chemical free, or even not laced with vegetation and pest control chemicals. We tell pregnant women not to eat fish, especially tuna, but we think it’s ok for other living things to eat fake, preserved with ugly chems, empty calories in the shape of a vegatable? We think using insulin is good for 10% more milk? Why? The FDA has allowed many things that were unsafe as introduced, like station drugs that were national news in 2018 as being dangerous as prescribed for 20 years. They allowed cigarettes. FDA allows a lot of crap food to keep bellies full, but without vitamins and minerals to actually thrive? Why do we settle for this and feel pity for People that are purposefully cutting corners to make money rather than provide actual nutritious food? What is the disconnect!? Why are we the last country to stop something dangerous when there are many safe ways of doing things? For money!?? For convenience? Where did people forget other people matter?

  3. 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

  4. 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.

  5. 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.

  6. 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.