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11 ingredients in U.S. foods so dangerous they're banned in other countries

Teresa Tanoos's picture
Book reveals list of ingredients in U.S. foods banned in other countries

A recently published list of popular foods in the U.S. considered so dangerous, they've been banned in other countries, has ruffled some feathers in the food industry. The list was made public last week when media outlets across the nation broke the news about a list of eight ingredients banned in other countries, but found in favorite foods on American grocery stores everywhere.

The list came from the book, Rich Food, Poor Food: The Ultimate Grocery Purchasing System, written by Jayson Calton, who has a Ph.D. in nutrition, and Mira Calton, a licensed certified nutritionist.

The married couple has developed a system to determine the healthiest options among the approximate 40,000 food offerings available in the mega-mart today. The couple says that shoppers can avoid processed sugars, high fructose corn syrup, refined flour, artificial colors, and nitrites if only they make a little effort.

"We call it our GPS of grocery purchasing system: how to identify dangerous ingredients, so people can shop safe and smart in the grocery store," said Mira Calton.

The book includes a list of “poor food”, which refers to food that’s been banned because it’s dangerous. By the same token, Calton points out that manufacturers aren’t putting these into foods because they’re “bad people”. The problem goes deeper than that.

"It might have been part of their original formula and sometimes they don't know," Calton said.

Nevertheless, it's not all about dangerous ingredients. Take sugar for example. According to Calton, excessive amounts of the sweetening ingredient may be contributing to vitamin and mineral deficiencies in ways that are complex and alarmingly recidivist.

"Sugar lowers your immune system, blocks Vitamin C from being absorbed into your body and worst of all, locks you into a crave cycle," says Mira. "When you eat something that contains sugar, it blocks the absorption of calcium and magnesium. And when you are low in calcium and magnesium, you crave sugar."

For its part, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has responded in an effort to assure the public that the agency is doing its job to monitor food safety.

"As part of the 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 FDA said in a statement.

The law requires the FDA determine with “reasonable certainty” that an additive does not cause harm when 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,” explained the FDA. “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."

Although the Calton’s say that "all of the ingredients on the list pose a potential danger to consumers, and we feel the consumer should be made aware so that they can make an informed decision as to whether or not they want to buy a product with these ingredients," the couple is not asking the FDA to ban these ingredients.

"Food is the most powerful thing you do every day for yourself, and if you don't get the right food, you're going to need medicine," Mira said. "Pay now or pay later," she added.

Meanwhile, what drives one country to ban a food and not another often has as much to do with politics as science. So says Julie Jones, author of Food Safety and a professor emeritus with St. Catherine University in Minnesota, who says she believes these products have gone through the correct due diligence in the U.S.

"We have science and politics and they are different in each country," Jones said.

According to the Mira, however, it all comes down to making smart choices.

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"Choosing a dietary philosophy is a journey that's going to take your entire lifetime," she says. "It doesn't have to be a doctrine that you adopt and stay steadfast to. The most important message is that no matter what you choose to follow, make sure whatever foods you're eating have the highest micronutrient values."

While some nutritionists give the green light to eating low-calorie, low-fat and low-sodium foods such as Kellogg's Fruit Loops with Sprinkles, Oscar Mayer Turkey Bologna and Hostess Twinkies, you won't find these heavily processed products listed as Rich Food choices in "Rich Food, Poor Food". Instead, you'll learn more than you probably want to know about what's in some favorite foods that you have in your pantry right now, including the following...

Below is a list of 11 ingredients found in popular foods in the U.S. that are considered so dangerous, they've been banned in other countries:

1. Blue #1 food coloring. Banned in Norway, Finland and France, Blue #1 and Blue #2 can be found in candy, cereal, drinks and pet food in the U.S.

2. Blue #2 food coloring. Blue #2 is listed as an ingredient in Mars' M&Ms.

3. Yellow #5 (Tartazine), Yellow #6 food coloring. Yellow #5 is banned in Norway and Austria because it contains the compounds benzidine and 4-aminobiphenyl.
a. "Six of the eleven studies on yellow #5 showed that it caused genotoxicity, a deterioration of the cell's genetic material with potential to mutate healthy DNA," say the Calton’s.
b. The International Food Information Council has said food ingredients are "carefully regulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to ensure that foods containing them are safe to eat and are accurately labeled."

4. Red #40. "Red #40 may contain the carcinogenic contaminant p-Cresidine and is thought to cause tumors of the immune system," according to "Rich Food, Poor Food". The Calton’s say that, in the UK, it is not recommended for children, but it is approved for use in the EU. The ingredient can be found in fruit cocktail, maraschino cherries, grenadine, cherry pie mix, ice cream, candy and other products.
a. Jones said high amounts of some ingredients could be damaging to some people, but that depends on the amount of consumption and the content of one's diet in general."Unless you are crazy and you do drink 8 liters of pop a day, your diet is so disordered already, no wonder what you eat is toxic, eating things in a way that never intended to be eaten," she said.
b. "The safety and quality of our products is our highest priority," said Kraft, adding that the company "carefully follow the laws and regulations in the countries where our products are sold."

5. Brominated vegetable oil. Brominated vegetable oil, or BVO, acts as an emulsifier in soda and sports drinks, preventing the flavoring from separating and floating to the surface.
a. The Calton’s say the ingredient is banned more than 100 countries because it contains bromine, a chemical whose vapors can be corrosive or toxic, the Caltons say.
b. Aurora Gonzalez, a spokeswoman for PepsiCo, which owns Mountain Dew, says that the company takes “consumer safety and product integrity seriously and we can assure you that Mountain Dew is safe”. She goes on to say, “As standard practice, we constantly evaluate our formulas and ingredients to ensure they comply with all regulations and meet the high quality standards our consumers expect."

6. Azodicarbonamide. This ingredient can bleach flour and is banned in Australia, the U.K. and many European countries, according to the Calton’s, who call it an "asthma-causing" allergen. Up to 45 parts per million is considered safe in the U.S. and it's found in a wide range of breads and baked goods here.

7. Potassium Bromate (Bromated flour). Potassium bromate strengthens dough and contains bromine, which is also in brominated vegetable oil. "The good news is that American bread manufacturers tell us that it disappears from the product during baking and deem that potassium bromate is safe as there is only negligible residue," the Calton’s write in their book. "However, the pastry chefs in Paris disagree. In fact, government regulatory bodies in Europe, Canada, China, and many other regions have banned the use of this additive. In California, if potassium bromate has been added, a product must carry a warning label."

8. Olestra (Olean). Olestra fat substitute is banned in the U.K. and Canada because it causes a depletion of fat-soluble vitamins and carotenoid, the Caltons say, "robbing us of vital micronutrients that our foods should be delivering." Olestra is the non-caloric fat substitute found in Ruffles Light and Lay's WOW chips. Some reports say the ingredient can cause diarrhea-like symptoms and/or other stomach ailments.

9. Butylated Hydroxyanisole (BHA) and Butylated Hydroxytoluene (BHT). Banned in England and other European countries, the Calton’s say that "these waxy solids act as preservatives to prevent food from becoming rancid and developing objectionable odors." In California, products containing the ingredient list it as a possible carcinogen. BHT is reportedly used in Chex cereals, although General Mills has not confirmed such report as true.

10. rBGH and rBST. Recombinant bovine growth hormone and recombinant bovine somatotropin, a synthetic version of bovine growth hormone, can be found in nonorganic dairy products unless noted on the packaging.
a. However, the Calton’s say that several regions (including Australia, New Zealand, Canada, Japan, and the European Union) have banned rBGH and rBST because they have “dangerous impacts on both human and bovine health."
b. Meanwhile, the American Dairy Association and Dairy Council (ADADC) said that in the last 20 years, rBST has been heavily researched and separate reviews by the National Institutes of Health, the joint World Health Organization/Food And Agriculture Organization Committee, the American Medical Association, as well as regulatory agencies in Canada and the European Union have corroborated the FDA's conclusion. "RBST is one of many management tools used by U.S. dairy farmers to provide a safe, affordable food supply," said ADADC spokeswoman Beth Meyer.

11. .Arsenic. In the book, “Rich Food, Poor Food”, the Calton’s warn about traces of arsenic, which has been banned in all foods in the EU, and can be found in some chicken feed.
a. Last month, Johns Hopkins University scientists said they found amounts of arsenic in chicken that exceeded naturally occurring levels, but the National Chicken Council says chickens raised for meat or broilers (for meat production) are no longer given any feed additives containing arsenic.
b. "Broilers used to be given a product called Roxarsone which contained trace amounts of arsenic, but it was pulled from the market in 2011 and is no longer manufactured. No other products containing arsenic are currently fed to broilers in the U.S." said Tom Super, a spokesman for the council.

Arsenic can be found in groundwater supplies in a number of countries, according to the World Health Organization.

"It's very hard to have a diet anywhere in the world that doesn't have a trace amount of arsenic," Jones said.

To learn more about these banned ingredients, and what you can do to eat less toxic foods, click below to read:
Does Your Favorite Food Contain One of These Toxic Ingredients?

SOURCE: Food and Drug Administration (FDA); "Rich Food, Poor Food", Mira Calton, CN, Jayson B. Calton, Ph.D.