10 Banned Chemicals Still in the U.S. Food Supply
There are several chemicals that companies use in processed foods to "improve" their flavor and texture despite near unanimous condemnation by the United Nations, the European Union and other countries around the world.
The United States has not taken the same steps to remove these chemicals from our own food supply.
Here's a list of highly dubious chemical ingredients currently allowed in American foods that you should stay away from:
1. Azodicarbonamide. This is a "dough conditioner" that creates even air pockets within
dough, giving industrial-processed foods a light, fluffy, fresh-baked texture. However,
azodicarbonamide is actually a yellowish powder that is most commonly used for
creating foamed plastics. The FDA considers it "Generally Regarded As Safe," but the
United Kingdom and the World Health Organization both recognized the chemical as a
potential cause of asthma and allergic reactions. Also, once the chemical degrades due to heat, it transforms into a well-known carcinogen. The United States is one of the only
countries in the world that allows the use of this chemical in food - it's illegal in the U.K.,
across Europe and in Australia.
2. BHA and BHT. These are two chemicals - closely related - that the FDA has also
classified as "Generally Regarded as Safe." They have a waxy consistency and are used as a preservative to keep food from going bad. They're often used in potato chips,
breakfast cereals and sausages. The trouble is, studies from the U.S. National Toxicology Program have shown that they are carcinogenic - meaning they raise a person's risk of getting cancer if they are ingested. BHA and BHT are banned in Japan, Canada, New Zealand, Australia and all across Europe.
3. Recombinant Bovine Growth Hormone (rBGH). These are lab-made hormones
administered to cows in the United States that makes them produce more milk.
Unfortunately, it also makes them more susceptible to disease, causing farmers to
subsequently pump the cows full of antibiotics. Those antibiotics eventually make their
way into people's bodies through milk, which could potentially lead to antibiotic-resistant
bacteria and other health problems.
4. Blue Dye #1. Also called Brilliant Blue, this chemical has been linked in scientific
studies with allergies, learning disabilities, aggressiveness and irritability in children.
The only reason it's used? To "improve" the look of foods like ice cream, peas, icings
and certain liqueurs. There aren't any "brilliant blue" foods in nature - and there
shouldn't be any in your cupboard, either. This chemical is banned in most of Europe.
5. Yellow Dye #5. Also known as tartrazine, more than half of the studies performed on this chemical have conclusively shown that it deteriorates a person's DNA - making it
dangerous not only to a human being, but to their potential future children, as well.
You're most likely to find tartrazine in cheese-flavored crackers like Goldfish and Cheez-
Its, as well as in chips, puddings and macaroni-and-cheese boxed dinners.
6. Yellow Dye #6. Another yellow dye to finish things off - this chemical is found in
breakfast cereals, Eggo waffles, American cheese and Kraft Macaroni and Cheese boxed dinner. These were banned in Northern Europe after studies showed the chemical was linked adrenal and kidney tumors in rats.
7. Astaxanthin. Found primarily in farm-raised salmon, whose diets give them an
unappetizing gray color of flesh (instead of the healthy pink found in wild salmon,)
astaxanthin is a petrochemical (meaning it's derived from oil) that's used to turn farmed
salmon meat pink. Astaxanthin has not been approved for human consumption, and is
banned in Australia and New Zealand.
8. Brominated Vegetable Oil. Usually found in Gatorade, Squirt, Sprit and other citrusflavored soft drinks and energy drinks, brominated vegetable oil (BVO) was originally patented as a flame-retardant chemical. BVO has the unfortunate tendency to build up in people's systems, and in large doses, it's been shown to cause reproductive and behavioral harm to animals. This is banned in many countries in Europe.
9. Arsenic. Yes, the infamous poison is regularly fed to poultry in the United States to make them grow more quickly, and make the meat appear more pink and fresh. Although arsenic-drugs are administered in very small doses, large doses of arsenic are outright lethal, and it' a known cancer-causing agent. The reasoning the FDA uses to keep it legal in the United States is that organic arsenic is less dangerous than inorganic arsenic, so only organic arsenic is allowed to be used. The European Union says, "Arsenic is arsenic, and it doesn't belong in food."
10. Potassium Bromate. This is another additive to breads, like azodicarbonamide, but its point is to make bread "enriched" with potassium - a vital nutrient. The problem is,
potassium bromate has been linked to kidney damage, nervous system damage, thyroid
problems and cancer. Canada, China and the European Union bans potassium bromate, but it's still used as an "enrichment" here in the States.
So, How Can You Avoid Obesity-Causing Chemicals?
The best way to avoid these harmful chemicals is to get back to a natural diet.
Cut out all processed foods, and stick to the pure, unadulterated foods (you'll find these on the perimeter of grocery stores, rather than inside the aisles).
It is also important to choose organic foods whenever possible. True, organic foods can still contain trace amounts of pesticides and other chemicals. However, the amount of chemicals is significantly less, which means you don't have to worry so much about your endocrine system spinning out of control.
But, of course it's easy to say "just eat organic"ÃÂÃÂ. In reality, not all of us can afford to eat 100% organic, myself included.
So what do we do?
Find a healthy balance/safe medium.
Since keeping a tight budget is very important right now, I'm selective about eating organic.
I only eat organic for foods that have the highest levels of pesticides/chemicals.
If you're on a budget too, buy organic for the following products (which typically contain very high amounts of pesticides and insecticides):
- Green beans
- Lettuce and other greens
My rule of thumb for buying organic produce on a budget: if the skin is exposed, buy organic. If not, buy the regular stuff.
In line with that statement, you'll notice that all the foods on the list above have their skin exposed, meaning organic versions are preferred.
Some great veggies/fruits that I usually buy non-organic are: avocados, onions, mangoes, cabbage, oranges, bananas, etc.
Check out the Environmental Working Group's site to learn more about "clean" and "dirty" produce.
Additionally, follow these guidelines to avoid chemicals in your food:
- Eat only wild fish, not farmed fish
o 1-2x per week is enough to get your Omega-3 needs
o Frozen wild fish can be GREAT, since the fats are frozen upon catching and are
therefore preserved much longer.
- Costco/BJ's is great for large packages of frozen wild fish.
- Try to eat grass-fed meat and pasture-raised chicken/turkey, etc.
o Conventionally-made meats contain high levels of hormones and antibiotics)
o Don't worry about buying organic beef or organic chicken. It can help but it's
really more of a farce if anything. Organic meats are still fed grains and starches
that their digestive systems are not accustomed to, meaning the end product is
o Note that chicken is higher in Omega 6 than Beef, Lamb and Goat (the 3 main
low-omega 6 meats)....so only eat organic chicken, and it eat for variety. Stick to
the low-Omega 6 meats for most meals.
o Grass-fed or pasture-raised insures they are eating their natural diets, allowing for
a superior, healthier end product.
- Opt for organic dairy (and grass-fed if possible...and raw milk, if you don't believe the
o Try to stick to cultured dairy, which is most types of dairy besides milk.
- Raw milk is the only type of milk that seems to not cause dairy allergies/intolerances
- Eat fresh or frozen foods instead of canned foods
o If you eat canned foods, eat them sparingly and make sure to soak/heat the food
o If you're too lazy to cook the fresh/frozen versions, then FINE...buy canned. If
it'll help you stick to your diet then I'm ok with it (at least until you're in shape!
After that, ditch the canned foods).
- Avoid plastic bottles; buy a BPA-free water bottle instead
o For added benefit, pick up Berkeley water filters, which are the "cream of the crop" in removing chemicals/toxins from water.
o If the Berkeley is out of your price range, just use a Brita and/or look for water bottle with built-in filters
- Don't ever put plastic in the microwave
o Even if it says "microwave-safe", if it's plastic, don't do it!
o Instead, I highly recommend mid-sized glass Pyrex bowls. They are awesome, cost about $7, and will last forever.
With that being said...you know the drill: While chemicals are important, they still do not trump eating more calories than you burn (if weight loss is your goal).
So, don't let yourself fall into the trap of "well I know they're cookies...but at least they're
organic!", and then end up eating 12 cookies.
Interested in losing weight? Then click below to see the exact steps I took to lose weight and keep it off for good...
Moving forward, there are several other articles/topics I'll share so you can lose weight even faster, and feel great doing it.
Below is a list of these topics and you can use this Table of Contents to jump to the part that interests you the most.