5 Food Additives Banned Outside the US

  Kid's cereals like this are chockfull of artificial color and flavor. (Photo: roboppy)

Ever stopped to read the ingredients list on a processed food item only to stumble over a few big chemically-sounding ingredients with questionable edibility? Sometimes these multi-syllabic ingredients are just the technical names for common and naturally occurring substances. Take “ascorbic acid,” for example, which is more commonly known as Vitamin C. But what about the other ingredients, the ones that sound as if they were created in a lab? Chances are stumbling over an unrecognizable ingredient on food packaging is indication that the ingredient is a food additive. Typically food additives are incorporated into processed foods to help boost flavor, maintain the shelf stability of a product, or to add color, but are some of these additives potentially more harmful than good?

Despite the fact that food and food products sold in the United States are subject to scrutiny by the FDA long before they hit the shelves of local supermarkets there is a hot debate over the handful of food additives which remain in foods in the US, but are banned in many other countries. These contested ingredients are banned in other countries like Norway, France, and Austria, citing a potential danger to consumers, but the FDA has yet to pull them from the shelves and generally recognizes these items as safe.

It comes as no surprise that processed foods remain at the center of national, and international debate, with some health and wellness specialists noting processed foods are ‘ok’ in small amounts, while others believe they should be avoided at all costs. The exposure many of these food additives have received in recent news has sparked conversation on the need for more informed food consumerism. With the evaluation process of foods taking place far out of sight of the average consumer, how do consumers know what is safe to eat? Is the international controversy another indicator to steer clear of processed foods altogether, and opt for minimally processed whole foods?

Here is a list of food products that are banned in other countries, but continue to be sold in the States.

Photo: fimoculous

  • Artificial Dyes - blue #1 & #2, Yellow #5 & #6, red #40

    • Often found in soft drinks, candies, sugary cereals

    • In several European countries artificial dyes are thought to be carcinogenic

  • Olestra

    • Often found in fat free or reduced fat products

    • In the EU and Canada Olestra is thought to disrupt the body’s ability to absorb fats as well as other essential nutrients

  • Brominated Vegetable Oil

    • Often found in sodas and sports drinks

    • In over 100 countries, BVO is banned because it contains bromine, a chemical whose vapors can be corrosive or toxic.

  • Bromated Flour

    • Often found in baked breads, crackers, and cookies

    • Bromated Flour contains bromine, a chemical whose vapors can be corrosive or toxic

  • Hormones: rGBH & rBST

    • These hormones are fed to cows, and often found in milk or other dairy products

    • Used to support the growth of dairy cows, it is unclear if rGBH & rBST pose any risk to human health, yet these hormones are banned in the EU, Canada, Japan and Australia

For more Food News stories:

Now Available by Prescription: Fruits and Vegetables Bottled Filtered or Tap: Think What You Drink Check out the Museum of Food and Drink Leafy Greens Have Cicadian Rhythms Too