The stark contrast between food quality in the United States and Europe often surprises those who travel abroad.
Before visiting Italy, Anna Fox was strictly gluten-free due to her doctor’s recommendation. After avoiding gluten for a few months, Mrs. Fox noticed an improvement in her digestive health and mental clarity. “I regained physical and mental energy I didn’t know I lost,” Mrs. Fox explained.
But she became concerned her health would slip while vacationing in Europe, given her intention to savor the pizza and pasta of Italy. “There was no way I was going to miss out on Italy’s iconic cuisine,” she said. While vacationing, Mrs. Fox enjoyed Italy’s celebrated gluten-containing dishes. But to her pleasant surprise, she did not experience the unwanted symptoms that occurred when she ate gluten back home in the United States. “Every day there, I felt refreshed rather than drained. I was elated.”
There may be an explanation for this noticeable difference in food quality. While American food manufacturers use a variety of food additives with potential side effects, European manufacturers must either avoid using certain ingredients or warn consumers of their risks. Even the ingredients in products on both sides of the oceans, like a brand of ketchup, can be dramatically different.
Commonly Found In: salad dressings, flour, bread, candy, boxed macaroni and cheese, canned soup, and prepackaged baked goods.
Often used to give food a white appearance, titanium dioxide was determined to be no longer acceptable to be used in food products by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) in May 2021. “A critical element in reaching this conclusion is that we could not exclude genotoxicity concerns after consumption of titanium dioxide particles,” Maged Younes, former chair of EFSA’s Food Additives and Flavourings Panel, explained in an EFSA assessment. Genotoxicity refers to the properties of a chemical that can impair DNA or chromosomes.
Titanium dioxide breaks down into nanoparticles, which can cause inflammation, pulmonary damage, fibrosis, and lung tumors in rodents. It is “possibly carcinogenic to humans,” according to the International Agency for Research on Cancer. “After oral ingestion, the absorption of titanium dioxide particles is low, however, they can accumulate in the body,” Mr. Younes said in his assessment.
Butylated Hydroxyanisole (BHA) and Butylated Hydroxytoluene (BHT)
Commonly Found In: chips, crackers, cereals, premade baked goods, and granola bars.
Used in a variety of processed foods, BHA and BHT prevent oils from oxidation. However, these two chemicals are not akin to the antioxidants found in fruits and vegetables. “These are preservatives in some food products and have been found to have immune effects and potentially are also carcinogenic,” said Dr. Sheela Sathyanarayana, a professor of pediatrics and environmental health sciences at the University of Washington and Seattle Children’s Research Institute.
Synthetic Food Coloring
Commonly Found In: candies, sodas, sports drinks, cake and cupcake frosting, salad dressings, and chips
Incorporated in food products to enhance appearance, petroleum-based food dyes like Yellow No. 5, Yellow No. 6, and Red No. 40 have been shown to induce behavioral challenges and hyperactivity. In one recent review analyzing 27 clinical trials on synthetic food dye, researchers found that the current evidence “supports a relationship between food dye exposure and adverse behavioral outcomes in children, both with and without pre-existing behavioral disorders.”
Brominated Vegetable Oil (BVO)
Commonly Found In: sodas and sports drinks.
Exactly what it sounds like, BVO is vegetable oil with bromine added to it. It is incorporated into a variety of beverages as an emulsifier. In 2012, however, an online petition with over 200,000 signatures led many companies, including Coca-Cola, to stop using BVO.
But many companies still utilize this emulsifier, given that the FDA has not prohibited its use. The European Union, on the other hand, has banned BVO as a food additive.
Commonly Found In: bread and baked goods.
Azodicarbonamide (ADA) is most commonly used in making various kinds of plastics and as a bleaching agent in flour-based foods. Animal studies revealed that ADA could be an organ and cellular toxin, while other research demonstrates that it can cause respiratory complications in humans. The European Union prohibits its use as a food additive.
Commonly Found In: flour, bread, and baked goods.
Used to enhance the texture of flour-based foods, potassium bromate has been scrutinized by activists for decades. Small amounts of bromate, a substance shown to be carcinogenic in animal studies, are found in potassium bromate. It was labeled “possibly carcinogenic” in 1999 by the International Agency for Research on Cancer, which ultimately led to its ban in European countries. This ingredient was also banned in California as recently as October, but the law won’t go into effect until 2027.
Recombinant Bovine Growth Hormone (rBGH)
Commonly Used In: conventional dairy products.
Recombinant bovine growth hormone (rBGH) is a hormone that stimulates greater milk production in cows. The EU banned the hormone in 1999. The primary concern of rBGH is its influence on the endocrine system. Some research has found a potential relationship between increased blood levels of growth hormone due to rBGH use and hormone-related cancers like breast and testicular. However, according to the American Cancer Society, the link between rBGH and cancer is inconclusive, warranting further investigation.
“It causes a huge number of side effects in cows themselves and potentially has health risks for humans consuming these cows,” Dr. Sathyanarayana told The Epoch Times. “Overall, the EU takes a more precautionary approach in banning this substance to prevent impacts on human health while the U.S. takes the approach of waiting until we see harmful effects before regulating,” she added.
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