If the United States could be sitting on the playground with other countries, those nations might not be so willing to swap lunches. In other words, we’ve got stuff in our food that people eat or drink every day, while those same substances are banned from consumable products elsewhere. So what exactly are we chowing down on that our fellow humans aren’t?
Buzzfeed picked up a few items from the world grocery cart discussed in Dr. Jayson Calton and certified nutritionist Mira Calton’s new book, Rich Food, Poor Food, and some of the differences are pretty noteworthy. Here are a few you might not be aware of
1. Artificial food dye: What’s that? Boxed macaroni cheese powder isn’t naturally orange? Gasp. You thought your berry sports drink came out that perfect shade of red all on its own? Ha.
There are a range of artificial dyes banned in Norway, Finland, Austria, France and the U.K. that we ingest here. They’re blacklisted in those countries in part because they’re made from chemicals derived from petroleum. They’ve been linked to things like brain cancer, nerve-cell deterioration, and hyperactivity, among others.
2. Olestra (or Olean): This ingredient is used to lower calorie counts in fat-free potato chips, corn chips and French fries. It has a slippery reputation, to say the least, and has been linked to anal leakage. It also depletes the body’s ability to absorb vitamins, say some experts.
It’s on the no-eat list in the U.K. and Canada, but you can find it here if you’re willing to risk symptoms like crampy bowels.
3. Brominated vegetable oil: You might recall campaign against this substance that makes food dyes stick to liquid. Gatorade recently announced it would ditch the stuff, but it’s still in plenty of other soft drinks and sports beverages.
Opponents of BVO point out that it’s a chemical used as a flame retardant, and has been linked to issues like major organ system damage, birth defects, growth problems, schizophrenia, and hearing loss. It’s banned in over 100 countries.
4. Azodicarbonamide: Even if you can’t pronounce it, you should know that it leaches flour and also plastic products. It’s in breads, frozen dinners, boxed pasta mixes and packaged baked goods. It’s banned in Australia, the U.K. and a plethora of other European countries over concerns that it could induce asthma.
5. Synthetic growth hormones rBGH and rBST: Mmm, hormones! So tasty. These can be found in plenty of milk and dairy products, and have been linked to humans breast, colon, and prostate cancer in humans. It’s also not so great for cows, say those against using the hormones while raising cattle.
Australia, New Zealand, Canada, Japan, and the EU all ban the use of growth hormones.
It just goes to show that while all of the above products (and more) are totally legal here, if you’re concerned about what it is you’re actually eating after reading that long list of ingredients, a little digging can go a long way.