Tag Archives: Food and Drug Administration

13 Banned Foods Still Allowed In The U.S.

photo-by-lauren-welter

photo credit: Lauren Welter

By Cristina Goyanes, Shape

You think the FDA has your back? Sure, they recently proposed two new regulations to up food safety measures, specifically how food processors and farmers can work better to keep their fresh products free of dangerous bacteria (remember that killer cantaloupe outbreak from 2011?). But while it may seem like the government is out to protect us from bad–even fatal–food-borne illnesses, which cause some 3,000 deaths a year, they don’t completely have our best interest–or health–in mind.

“For numerous suspicious and disturbing reasons, the U.S. has allowed foods that are banned in many other developed countries into our food supply,” says nutritionist Mira Calton who, together with her husband Jayson Calton, Ph.D., wrote the new book Rich Food, Poor Food due out in February.

During a six-year expedition that took them to 100 countries on seven continents, the Caltons studied more than 150 ingredients and put together a comprehensive list of the top 13 problematic products that are forbidden by governments, outside the United States, due to their detrimental effects on human health.

“If you see any of the following ingredients listed on the nutrition label, don’t buy the product,” Calton warns. “Leaving these banned bad boys on the shelves will speak volumes to grocery stores and food manufactures about what informed consumers simply won’t tolerate.”

Ingredients: Coloring agents (blue 1, blue 2, yellow 5, and yellow 6)

  • Found In: Cake, candy, macaroni and cheese, medicines, sport drinks, soda, pet food, and cheese
  • Why The U.S. Allows It: We eat with our eyes. “Recent studies have shown that when food manufacturers left foods in their natural, often beige-like color instead of coloring them with these chemical agents, individuals thought they tasted bland and ate less, even when the recipe wasn’t altered,” Calton says. This may explain why the use of artificial dyes–the most popular being red 40, yellow 5, and yellow 6–has increased five-fold since 1955.
  • Health Hazards: Back in the day, food coloring came from natural sources, such as saffron and turmeric. “Today most artificial colors are made from coal tar, which is also used to seal-coat products to preserve and protect the shine of industrial floors,” Carlton says. “It also appears in head lice shampoos to kill off the small bugs.”

Ingredient: Olestra (a.k.a. Olean)

  • Found In: Fat-free potato chips
  • Why The U.S. Allows It: Procter & Gamble Co. took a quarter century and spent a half a billion dollars to create “light” chips that are supposedly better for you, Calton says. They may need another half a billion bucks to figure out how to deal with the embarrassing bathroom side effects (including oily anal leakage) that comes with consuming these products.
  • Health Hazards: “This fat substitute appears to cause a dramatic depletion of fat-soluble vitamins and carotenoids, robbing us of the vital micro-nutrients,” Calton says, adding that many countries, including the U.K. and Canada, have banned it.

Ingredient: Brominated vegetable oil (a.k.a. BVO)

  • Found In: Sports drinks and citrus-flavored sodas
  • Why The U.S. Allows It: BVO acts as an emulsifier, preventing the flavoring from separating and floating to the surface of beverages, Calton says.
  • Health Hazards: “Because it competes with iodine for receptor sites in the body, elevated levels of the stuff may lead to thyroid issues, such as hypothyroidism, autoimmune disease, and cancer,” Calton says. That’s not all. BVO’s main ingredient, bromine, is a poisonous chemical that is considered both corrosive and toxic. It’s been linked to major organ system damage, birth defects, growth problems, schizophrenia, and hearing loss, which explains why it’s been nixed in more than 100 countries.

Ingredient: Potassium bromate (a.k.a. brominated flour)

  • Found In: Rolls, wraps, flatbread, bread crumbs, and bagel chips
  • Why The U.S. Allows It: This flour-bulking agent helps strengthen dough, reducing the amount of time needed for baking, which results in lowered costs, Calton explains.
  • Health Hazards: Made with the same toxic chemical found in BVO (bromine), this additive has been associated with kidney and nervous system disorders as well as gastrointestinal discomfort. “While the FDA has not banned the use of bromated flour, they do urge bakers to voluntarily leave it out,” Calton says.

Ingredient: Azodicarbonamide

  • Found In: Breads, frozen dinners, boxed pasta mixes, and packaged baked goods
  • Why The U.S. Allows It: While most countries wait a week for flour to naturally whiten, the American food processors prefer to use this chemical to bleach the flour ASAP.
  • Health Hazards: It’s not enough to just ban this product in Singapore. You can get up to 15 years in prison and be penalized nearly half a million dollars in fines for using this chemical that’s been linked to asthma and is primarily used in foamed plastics, like yoga mats and sneaker soles.

Ingredients: BHA and BHT

  • Found In: Cereal, nut mixes, gum, butter, meat, dehydrated potatoes, and beer
  • Why The U.S. Allows It: “Made from petroleum [yummy!], these waxy solids act as preservatives to prevent food from becoming rancid and developing objectionable odors,” Calton says. A better solution may be natural rosemary and sage. In a 2006 study, some organic herbs and spices proved to be efficient at preventing oxidative decay in meat, which ultimately could improve the shelf-life of these products.
  • Health Hazards: California is the only state that recognizes the U.S. National Institute of Health’s report that BHA may be a human carcinogen, a cancer-causing agent.

Ingredients: Synthetic hormones (rBGH and rBST)

  • Found In: Milk and dairy products
  • Why The U.S. Allows It: Gotta keep moo-ving things along. Dairy farmers inject cows with genetically engineered cow growth hormones to boost milk production by about 10 percent, according to Calton.
  • Health Hazards: “Cows treated with these synthetic hormones often become lame, infertile, and suffer from inflamed and infected udders,” Calton says. Humans who consume these cows byproducts are in no better shape, she adds: “The milk is supercharged with IGF-1 (insulin growth factor -1), which has been linked to breast, colon, and prostate cancers.”

Ingredient: Arsenic

  • Found In: Poultry
  • Why The U.S. Allows It: Big brother FDA permits arsenic in chicken feed to promote growth, improve efficiency in feeding the birds, and boost pigmentation. “The arsenic affects the blood vessels in chickens and turkeys, causing them to appear pinker and, therefore, fresher,” Calton says.
  • Health Hazards: The European Union has outlawed the use of arsenic since 1999, Calton says, and the Environmental Protection Agency classifies inorganic arsenic as a “human carcinogen.” Take matters into your own hands by sticking to organic birds only.

This article was written by Cristina Goyanes and published in Shape on January 15, 2013.

Photo by Lauren Welter

10 Steps to Remove BPA from Your Body in Less Than a Week

Many of you know about my struggle with recurrent miscarriage. Though we are so excited about the prospect of growing our family through adoption, I’m still concerned that something is wrong in my body and the doctors just can’t seem to figure it out. This year I’m taking my health into my own hands and instead of looking to the medical profession who up to this point have completely failed me, I’m looking inside my own body for the answers. This year I’m seeking to get my body back to to a whole, healthy, and healed place. One way I’m doing this is by eliminating BPA from my diet. You can also learn about the Real Food diet and how to cut out processed foods by reading this post.

What is BPA you ask? Bisphenol a (BPA) is a synthetic estrogen used to harden polycarbonate plastics and epoxy resin. Yes, you read that right. SYNTHETIC ESTROGEN. An estimated 6 billion pounds of BPA are produced globally annually, generating about $6 billion in sales. It is fabricated into thousands of products made of hard, clear polycarbonate plastics and tough epoxy resins, including safety equipment, eyeglasses, computer and cell phone casings, water and beverage bottles, DENTAL FILLINGS, and epoxy paint and coatings. Despite research that has proven this chemical to be hazardous it is still approved for use in a shocking amount of products. What’s so bad about it? Trace BPA exposure has been shown to disrupt the endocrine system and trigger a wide variety of disorders, including chromosomal and reproductive system abnormalities, impaired brain and neurological functions, cancer, cardiovascular system damage, adult-onset diabetes, early puberty, obesity and resistance to chemotherapy. The most disgusting fact of all is that the highest levels of BPA have been found in baby bottles, and liquid infant formula. Seriously.  (Source: EWG)

When I first started researching this and found out that women who have recurrent miscarriages are found to have much higher traces of BPA in their systems I was horrified. I’ve been systematically poisoning myself and I didn’t even know it. When I was pregnant I probably ate 2 cans of Campbell’s soup and drank tons of bottled water. I also have fillings in my mouth that are composed of 50% BPA. There’s nothing I can do about that now (hopefully most of the harmful chemical has dissipated and been flushed out by my body by now). I use so many plastics and canned goods and never could have imagined in my wildest dreams that it could be contributing to my miscarriages. So its OUT WITH BPA.

There is some good news folks. BPA has a VERY short half-life. That means it can be flushed out of your system in less than 24 hours. Just a few days of going BPA free can get you completely back to normal, you just have to be vigilant. Here’s how to do it.

BPA is Everywhere.

It’s in everything we touch, everything we eat, everything we buy: it’s hidden in grocery store receipts and beauty products, in coffee cups and soda cans, in the very food and water we need to live. So, what’s the big deal? We’ve survived so far. Or… have we? Cancer and autoimmune disease rates continue to rise steadily. In 2009, EWG tests found estrogen-disrupting  levels of BPA in 9 of 10 umbilical cord blood samples. We all have BPA in our bodies. There’s nothing we can do about it. Right?

You can Remove BPA from Your Body.

And you can do it in less than a week. BPA is metabolized by the body very quickly. A recent study found that participants were able to reduce the levels of BPA in their body by 65% in three days just by avoiding packaged foods¹. By eliminating additional hidden sources of BPA in your environment you can increase that number, as well as reducing many other toxic chemicals that are found in plastics like phthalates, and polyethylene. Here’s how.

1. Just Say No to BPA-loaded Receipts

Did you know that some receipts contain 250 to 1,000 times the amount of BPA typically found in a can of food?²  If that isn’t scary enough, BPA transfers readily from the receipt to skin and cannot be washed off. Different types of receipts contain varying levels of BPA. If you aren’t sure whether or not a merchant uses BPA in their receipts, either ask directly or let them know early in the transaction that you will not need your receipt. Gas station receipts are particularly notorious for containing huge amounts of BPA.

2. Avoid Packaged Food

True, you might have to give up potato chips. But, maybe that’s not such a bad thing. So, what will you possibly eat? There are many safe options available to replace the packaged staples in your kitchen. You can buy fresh bread from the bakery in paper, milk in glass bottles, bring a glass container for cheese and meat from the deli, buy cereal in bulk, get beans and grains from the bulk bin in your own cloth or paper bag. Forgo the packaged salad greens for unpackaged – use cloth or paper bags in the produce aisle.

3. Switch to a Safe BPA-free Water Bottle

You know that funny taste that your plastic water bottle gets when you leave it in the sun? That’s the taste of chemicals leaching into your water. Doesn’t sound very refreshing, does it? There are many safe stainless steel and glass alternatives to plastic bottles. My favorites are those made with 100% safe glass, with stainless steel or silicone in place of a plastic top. Three great options are from VesselBottles UP and Bkr. If you choose a stainless steel option, make sure to get one that is not lined with plastic. Kleen Kanteen is a safe choice. While you’re at it, skip the water cooler for fill-ups. Those big plastic jugs are loaded with BPA too. Tap is safer.

4. Store Food in Glass

Did you know that even “safe” plastics can leach toxic chemicals³ once they are washed in a dishwasher or scrubbed with detergent and a sponge? Why take the chance? Ditch those plastic tubs in place of safe all-glass alternatives. For on the go or smaller items, forgo plastic wrap and plastic sandwich bags in place of small glass containers, wax paper bags, or parchment paper.

5. Avoid Canned Foods

92% of all canned food is lined with BPA coating. Look for alternatives in glass jars (most will have BPA lined lids but overall contamination is much less) or stick to these safe BPA-free brands: Eden Foods (except tomatoes), Wild Planet tuna, Vital Choice tuna, Native Forest  and Native Factor canned goods.

6. Give up Soda

Believe it or not, even aluminum soda cans are lined with BPA. If you can’t give up soda, you can always buy a brand that comes in a glass bottle.

7. Eat at Home

Most  food  in restaurants originates from highly packaged sources or is stored in plastic. As a result, almost all restaurant food is loaded with BPA. Eating at home and bringing your lunch to work more often will help reduce the BPA in your body.

plastic-free coffee

8. Make your Own Coffee

Unless you’re lucky enough to have a local coffee shop that brews in glass, a cup of  to-go coffee comes in contact with BPA during each stage of the brewing process. From the plastic bag the beans are stored in, to the hot plastic coffee maker it’s brewed in, the thermos it’s kept hot in, and the plastic – lined cup it’s served in.

For a BPA- free brew, buy beans from bulk, store in glass, and drip brew with paper filters, a stainless steel  Coava filter and Chemex glass carafe, or stainless steel french press. Pour into a ceramic cup and, voila! BPA-free coffee to go.

9. Buy Personal-care Products in Glass, Paper or Metal.

BPA, phthalates, and other toxic chemicals can leach into beauty products from a plastic container and absorb into your skin. Work to eventually phase out these items by replacing them with safe-packaged alternatives as they run out. If you are on a budget, most beauty products can be made from simple ingredients.

 10. Replace Plastic Items with Safer Alternatives

Because BPA, phthalates and other plasticizers are not chemically bound to the plastics they’re added to, they are continuously released into our air and transferred to our skin when touched. Begin to replace plastic items in your household as you are able. Children are especially vulnerable to plastic chemical exposure. Gradually replace children’s toys and tableware with safer, non-plastic options. Even choosing natural fibers over synthetic clothing (did you know spandex is made of plastic?) can reduce the amount of plastic chemicals stored in your body.

Of course, we can never completely eliminate plastic from our lives

But, the more plastic we avoid, the less BPA in our bodies. Have I eliminated synthetic clothing? Um, no. And I do eat a bag of chips now and then. Although it can be done in 3 days, gradual changes will result in a slow and steady reduction of BPA too. It’s all about knowing how BPA gets into our bodies and cultivating an awareness of plastic so we can consider opportunities to avoid it. It’s about empowering ourselves with the knowledge to make healthy choices.