In a recent book written by a husband and wife nutritionist team, a list of foods and food ingredients that we commonly eat in the U.S., but that are banned in other countries, was published.
Rich Food, Poor Food: The Ultimate Grocery Purchasing System, written by Jayson and Mira Calton, highlighted these ingredients as a way to help people keep an eye on potentially harmful chemicals in the foods they buy, prepare and consume.
These foods and ingredients have been approved for use by the public by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. The FDA issued a statement to ABC News in response to the list:
“As part of FDA’s overall commitment to ensure the safety of the food supply, the agency uses an extensive, science-based process to evaluate the safety of food additives. The law requires that the FDA determine there is reasonable certainty that an additive does not cause harm when it is used as intended. The agency continues to monitor the science on food additives and is prepared to take appropriate action if there are safety concerns. When determining that a food or ingredient is ‘generally recognized as safe’ or GRAS for its intended use in food, the same quantity and quality of evidence is required as is needed to approve a food additive.”
There is quite a lot of controversy over the list. Some chemists have said that the list is “chemophobic”, and that the science and understanding behind the list is suspect. Food manufacturers have defended the use of these chemicals as harmless, saying that there is gross misunderstanding among the untrained about how these chemicals work in certain combinations and low amounts.
However this is not just a matter of two people who are nutritionists, not chemists, writing a book that demonizes these chemicals. Entire countries have prohibited the use of these chemicals in the diets of their populace. Those decisions were certainly not made by a couple of authors with limited knowledge.
One example of a controversial chemical on the list is Brominated Vegetable Oil (BVO). This chemical is used in some soft citrus-flavored drinks (e.g. Mountain Dew) to allow the flavoring agents in those drinks to stay blended and not separate as floating solids. Bromine is used as a flame retardant, gas additive, and in pesticides. Manufacturers say that properly bonding the bromine with the vegetable oil makes it harmless. But the European Union has not approved BVO as a food additive. In those countries, the same soda manufacturers use other materials to achieve the same result.
Other chemicals listed in the controversial book include:
Blue #1 – a food coloring – banned in Norway, Finland and France
Blue #2 – a food coloring – banned in Norway, Finland and France
Yellow #5 – a food coloring – banned in Norway and Austria
Yellow #6 – a food coloring – banned in Norway and Austria
Red # 40 – a food coloring – not recommended for children in the U.K.
Azodicarbonamide – used to bleach flour – banned in Australia, the U.K. and many European countries
Potassium Bromate – used to strengthen dough – banned in Europe, Canada, and China
Olestra – an oil substitute used in potato chips; famous for causing anal leakage – banned in the U.K. and Canada
Butylated Hydroxyanisole (BHA) and Butylated Hydroxytoluene (BHT) – waxy solids that act as a preservative – banned in England, and other European countries
rBGH and rBST – growth hormones used in dairy – banned in Australia, New Zealand, Canada, Japan, and the European Union
Arsenic – used in chicken feed – banned in all foods in the EU