Is there a striking difference in food quality between the United States and Europe? With a doctor’s advice, a woman committed to a gluten-free lifestyle. After months of avoiding gluten, she experienced remarkable improvements in her digestion and mental state. Her physical and mental energy had been restored. However, she now faces a dilemma while planning her European getaway – can she indulge in the delectable pizza and pasta of Italy without sacrificing her newfound health?
Consuming foods in Italy’s renowned gluten-filled cuisine during her vacation, she discovered a pleasant surprise: the absence of her usual gluten-induced symptoms. In fact, she felt invigorated rather than sluggish every day. What could explain this stark contrast in food quality?
It turns out that while American food manufacturers include potentially problematic additives, their European counterparts must either eliminate certain ingredients or disclose their risks to consumers. Even everyday products like ketchup can have significant differences in their ingredients between the two regions.
Titanium dioxide, a common ingredient found in flour, salad dressings, bread, candy, and more, has been banned for use in food products by the European Food Safety Authority. This decision was made due to concerns about its potential to damage DNA and cause inflammation, lung damage, and even tumors in rodents. The International Agency for Research on Cancer also classifies titanium dioxide as “possibly carcinogenic to humans.”
From chips and crackers to cereals and granola bars, BHT and BHA are widely used to fend off oil oxidation. These preservatives, found in various food products, have been linked to immune issues and even potential carcinogenic effects. In fact, the esteemed National Toxicology Program considers both BHT and BHA as potential human carcinogens. Europe has already imposed certain restrictions on these chemicals.
Synthetic food coloring is everywhere including sodas, candies, sport drinks, and baked goods. But did you know that these petroleum-based food dyes can wreak havoc on your health? Yellow No. 5, Yellow No. 6, and Red No. 40 have been linked to behavioral challenges and hyperactivity. In fact, a recent study found that exposing children to these dyes can have detrimental effects on their behavior.
Brominated vegetable oil (BVO) is a controversial vegetable oil that is used as an emulsifier in many beverages and has sparked controversy and concern. While a petition in 2012 caused some companies to ditch the ingredient, others still rely on it. Surprisingly, the FDA has not banned BVO, unlike the EU which has taken a strong stance against it. But the dangers of BVO are real – studies have linked it to neurological disease and reproductive harm. Not only can this harmful substance accumulate in the body, but it’s also been linked to a range of unpleasant symptoms including headaches, skin and mucous membrane irritation, fatigue, and muscle coordination and memory problems. However, change may be on the horizon. The FDA has proposed revoking BVO’s status as a food additive, potentially putting an end to its use once and for all by November 2, 2023.
Azodicarbonamide (ADA) is a commonly used ingredient in flour-based foods and plastics. Findings from animal studies reveal that ADA can be harmful to our organs and cells, while research suggests it may also lead to respiratory issues in humans. Interestingly, the EU has even banned ADA as a food additive. In a separate study, rats fed a diet with ADA experienced noticeable behavioral changes. Stay informed about the potential risks associated with ADA.
Potassium bromate is a controversial ingredient used in flour-based foods to enhance theie texture. Activists have long expressed concerns about the presence of small amounts of bromate, a substance that has been found to be carcinogenic in animal studies. It is banned in European countries due to the International Agency for Research on Cancer labeled it as “possibly carcinogenic,” leading to its ban in European countries. Recently, California also decided to ban the use of this ingredient, although the law won’t take effect until 2027. Studies have shown that animals exposed to potassium bromate experienced higher rates of both benign and malignant kidney tumors. Moreover, ingesting potassium bromate has been linked to a significant increase in cancer in the thyroid, kidneys, and other organs of mice.
Recombinant bovine growth hormone (rBGH) is the hormone that revolutionized milk production in cows. While the EU took a proactive stance by banning rBGH in 1999, its impact on the endocrine system remains a point of concern. Studies suggest a possible link between elevated growth hormone levels caused by rBGH and hormone-related cancers. However, it’s important to note that the American Cancer Society states that the evidence is inconclusive, calling for further investigation. In addition to potential health risks for humans, rBGH poses a significant number of side effects for cows. Avoid the hormone by choosing organic dairy products, as the USDA strictly prohibits its use in certified organic products.
In the United States, food additives undergo an FDA review and approval process, unless they are deemed “generally recognized as safe” (GRAS) by experts. However, there is a potential conflict of interest as manufacturers have the discretion to determine the use of a GRAS substance. They do not need FDA approval and notifying the FDA is optional. On the other hand, in the EU, there is no GRAS exception. Food additives must be assessed by the EFSA and authorized by the European Commission before they can be used. Compared to the US, the EU system prioritizes current data and scientific rules in assessing safety and ensures that regulators have the final say, not industry.
The FDA has not reassessed many food additives in decades, despite evidence showing that some of them may be harmful. Surprisingly, the FDA has the power to reevaluate these additives but is not required to do so. In contrast, the EU mandates that all food additives approved before January 20, 2009, undergo reassessment.