I have to confess that I rarely look at the news online, but this headline caught my eye recently: What’s really in your food?
This article exposes the additives to our food that are the most obvious or have gotten the most press; I assume there are likely countless artificial ingredients that are added and we’re unknowingly consuming in our food. Can we avoid any/all of these chemicals, additives and ingredients in our search for nutritious, healthy foods? It may be impossible but my gut tells me that knowing where our food comes from is a key. Local—as in seeing it actually grown in front of your very own eyes. Local—as in supporting CSA’s and frequenting Farmer’s Markets. Local—as in asking for locally grown produce in your supermarket. It’s all about taking the initiative to speak up and ask questions.
rBGH and rBST
Milk from cows treated with rBGH has a significant increase of the hormone insulin-like growth factor 1 (IGF-1), linked to breast, colorectal and prostate cancers. And rBGH and rBST can also show up in products like sour cream made with hormone-induced cow’s milk.
Where it’s banned: Australia, New Zealand, Israel, EU and Canada
BHA and BHT
BHA and BHT are widely used preservatives that prevent oils in foods from becoming rancid. Per the U.S. Dept of Health and Human Services, BHA “is reasonably anticipated to be a human carcinogen …..” BHA is also suspected of triggering allergic reactions and hyperactivity.
Where it’s banned: The UK doesn’t allow BHA in infant foods. BHA and BHT are also banned in parts of the European Union and Japan.
Fat substitute found in fat-free chips and fries; several reports tell of adverse intestinal reactions including diarrhea, cramps and leaky bowels. Because it interferes with the absorption of fat soluble vitamins such as A, D, E and K, the FDA requires these vitamins be added to any product made with Olean or olestra.
Where it’s banned: The UK and Canada
Added to breads to help the dough hold together and rise higher, studies have linked this additive to kidney damage and tumors, cancer and damage to the nervous system. The International Agency for Research on Cancer classifies potassium bromate as carcinogen possibly cancerous to humans. Ironically, it’s approved by the FDA for use in the malting of barley.
Where it’s banned: Canada, China and the EU
Notoriously poisonous, and a known carcinogen, arsenic has routinely been fed to chickens raised in the U.S. for decades to increase poultry’s weight while requiring less feed.
Where it’s banned: The European Union
Colors and dyes
Boxed mac and cheese, cheddar flavored crackers, Jell-O and many kids’ cereals contain red 40, yellow 5, yellow 6 and/or blue 2, the most popularly-used dyes in the United States. Research has shown they can cause behavioral problems as well as cancer, birth defects and other health problems in lab animals. Red 40 and yellow 6 are also suspected of causing an allergy-like hypersensitivity reaction in children. The Center for Science in the Public Interest reports that some dyes are also “contaminated with known carcinogens.”
Where it’s banned: Norway and Austria. And in 2009 the British government advised companies to stop using food dyes by the end of that year. The European Union also requires a warning notice on most foods containing dyes.
Brominated Vegetable Oil — BVO
According to the Mayo Clinic, bromine can accumulate in fatty tissues; linked to trouble with thyroid function and may affect the nervous system causing tremors, depression, and confusion. The FDA has flip-flopped on BVO’s safety originally classifying it as “generally recognized as safe” but reversing that call now defining it as an “interim food additive” a category reserved for possibly questionable substances used in food.
Where it’s banned: Europe and Japan
Doped Up Meat
Linked to hyperactivity, muscle corrosion and adverse effects on the cardiovascular system in humans. Some studies show that it can cause chromosomal abnormalities and behavioral changes.
Fed to cows and pigs to increase muscle mass, it is also one of the few fed to animals in the last days before slaughter (to increase its effectiveness). Experts speculate as much as 20 percent of the drug can be present in meat consumer’s purchase from their local grocer.
Where it’s banned: Europe, Russia, Mainland China & Republic of China (Taiwan)
One of the largest crops from the Big Island is genetically engineered, a move supported by the U.S. government. On Wednesday, June 19, 2013, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said the United States supports the use of biotechnology to develop “smart” crops that can withstand disease, droughts and floods. Numerous studies have found animals fed genetically engineered foods suffered intestinal damage, bleeding ulcers, kidney and liver disease, and a host of other health maladies.
Where it’s banned: The EU, which does not tolerate genetically engineered papaya
These salmon are being fed canthaxanthin, a chemical that perks up the trademark pinkish-orange color. Some studies have shown that a high intake can lead to pigments collecting in the retina, potentially damaging eyesight.
Where it’s banned: Australia and New Zealand
I’d like to hear if anyone has other ideas as we pursue safer, healthy foods for our families. Please share them with us.