Are the Foods You Don’t Think Twice about Eating Really Safe?

Are the Foods You Don’t Think Twice about Eating Really Safe?

Some foods on our plates might be perfectly healthy but don’t look so appetizing. Sometimes it’s a matter of personal taste, sometimes it’s a cultural thing, or sometimes there are warnings from food regulatory agencies. But what about the foods that look and taste great, are considered healthy, but in fact are unhealthy and are recognized as unhealthy in other countries outside the U.S.? If you think you’re eating safe just by sticking with whole foods, you’re not. Some tainted foods are sitting in food markets in the produce, meat, and fish departments.

Let’s take a look at some foods and ingredients found in foods that are sold in U.S. that are banned for consumption by other countries, what their health risks are, and why you might want to pass on them or ask a lot of questions before you dig in.


Farm-raised salmon. Salmon has been touted as a healthy fish with omega fatty acids and healthy fats. Yet salmon raised in seafood farms are often fed grains that are genetically modified. If that’s not bad enough, farm-raised salmon receives doses of antibiotics, drugs, and chemicals. If you’re eating salmon in the U.S., chances are you’re not eating a catch caught in the wild (ocean); Only about one-third of the salmon in the U.S. is.

Health risks: obesity and diabetes associated with toxic exposures to pesticides, antibiotics and other pollutants.

Countries where banned include: Australia, New Zealand, Russia.


Genetically engineered papaya. Sounds and looks like a healthy fruit … sweet, tropical, right off the stalk in Hawaii, where most papaya grows. But most Hawaiian papaya has been engineered to resistant the common and pesky ringspot virus.

Health risks: intestinal diseases and tumors in animals.

Countries where banned include: European Union


Meats containing arsenic. American families are meat-lovers by nature. But beware: Arsenic-based drugs are approved for animal feed for quick growth of livestock and pinker looking meat. They are in store-bought chickens and rice. The FDA claims the organic form of arsenic is safe. However, some studies have concluded that organic arsenic can transform into inorganic arsenic. Inorganic arsenic contaminates animal manure which eventually finds its way into drinking water.

Health risks: carcinogen

Countries where banned include: European Union.


Meats containing ractopamine. If it’s not arsenic, animal eaters might be consuming cuts of meats or burgers containing a drug used in livestock processing. Some livestock and factory farms use ractopamine as a muscle enhancer in livestock, pigs, cattle, and turkey.

Health risks: reduced functioning, mastitis (in dairy animals), death, and disability.

Countries where banned include: 160 countries including China and Russia


Drinks containing brominated vegetable oil (BVO). Citrusy sodas and sports drinks attract consumers who think they’re stepping up their consumption of healthier beverages and supporting their healthy exercise regime. But wait. Patented by chemical companies as a flame retardant, BVO is found in these innocent-looking beverages. BVO has been shown to build up in human tissue and breast milk.

Health risks: Linked to major organ damage, birth defects, and behavioral issues.

Countries where banned include: Europe and Japan


Packaged foods with food additives and flavorings. Every kid’s favorite meals are breakfast cereals, mac and cheese and colorful gobs of wiggly Jello. More than 3,000 additives and flavorings are used in these and other processed foods to make them look appetizing. Boxed macaroni and cheese contains yellow #6), Jello and kids’ cereals often contain similar flavorings to makes kids hit up their parents for them at the supermarket.

Health risks: behavioral disorders, cancer, birth defects, hypersensitivity in kids.

Countries where banned include: Norway and Austria.


Baked goods with brominated flour. We eat breads and rolls with many meals; flour wraps have become an option for the health conscious with spinach and tomato-flavored baked flour rounds for our sandwiches at lunchtime instead of big slices of bread with high levels of gluten. Brominated flour is added to make baking dough more elastic. It’s added to rolls, flour tortilla wraps, breads, bread crumbs, and bagel chips.

Health risks: kidney and nervous system damage, thyroid problems, and cancer.

Countries where banned include: Canada, China, European Union


Fat-free snacks with Olestra (brand name Olean). Dieters are drawn to foods containing less fat. Olestra delivers on that, creating fat-free snacks as a calorie-free and cholesterol-free substitute. You can find them in chips and french fries particularly.

Health risks: adverse intestinal reactions and depletion of fat-soluble vitamins and carotinoids (metabolic building blocks).

Countries where banned include: UK and Canada.


Packaged foods with the preservatives BHA (Butylated Hydroxyanisole) and BHT (Butylated Hydroxytoluene). These preservatives can be found in our basic food staples; items we pack into our shopping carts frequently: breakfast cereals, nut mixes, chewing gum, butter spreads, meats, dehydrated potatoes, and beer. The food industry generally likes BHA and BHT because they remain stable at higher temperatures.

Health risks of BHA: Allergic reactions, hyperactivity.

Health risks of BHT: organ system toxicity.

Countries where banned include: European Union and Japan. BHA prohibited in infant foods in the UK. Specific products:


Milk and dairy with RGBH. Milk is a staple in households around the world. What’s more wholesome than a cold glass of milk? It’s the go-to kid’s beverage and if adults don’t drink it by the glass they often use it in coffees and teas. And yet synthetic hormones are injected into cows to increase milk production.

Health risks: colorectal, prostate, and breast cancers.

Countries where banned include: Australia, New Zealand, European Union, Israel, and Canada and about 30 other countries.


Breads, frozen dinners, boxed pasta, baked goods with azodicarbonamide. They may not be considered healthy food but they’re sure convenient. Many consumers who put in long days at work like their convenience. But azodicarbonamide is used to bleach flour to make breads and pastries a pretty white color. You may also be walking or sitting on azodicorbonamide; it could be in the foamed plastic used in your yoga mat or the soles of your athletic shoes.

Health risk: asthma

Countries where banned include: Australia, the U.K., and most European countries.


Fruit with diphenylamine (DPA). Walking around the produce section you think you’re in good company. Not necessarily. Pumped into the pretty fresh fruits are a mixture of chemicals that protect it from blackening or browning during storage. DPA may be why you can buy apples out of season. It could also be in your apple juice, applesauce, pears, and baby food.

Health risk: chemicals break down to form nitrosamines, a carcinogen. The European Food Safety Authority identifies DPA as a poison.


Artificial food dyes. You know those brightly colored cup cakes and cookies on display in the grocery store, and those colorful snacks, desserts and cereals? They make nice treats and many consumers are tempted to share them with guests on special occasions like birthdays and other celebrations. You might want to go for the baked goods that don’t look so pretty. These pretty pastries often contain artificial food dyes, some of which are derived from petroleum-based chemicals.

Health risks: serious health problems including brain tumors, birth defects, hyperactivity, cancers, allergic reactions, and nerve cell deterioration.

Countries where banned include: Austria, Finland, France, Norway, and the UK.


What’s Safe to Eat?

Unfortunately, we can’t be completely sure that what we’re eating is safe. What we can do is:

  • Become as knowledgeable a consumer as possible.
  • Grow your own vegetables and fruits.
  • Shop local farmer’s markets selling local organic produce.
  • Be suspect of foods that look overly colorful, shiny, and perfect; they may be artificially enhanced to look that way.
  • Choose only fresh, whole, organic foods whose source you know and trust. Some products have non-GMO and certified organic labels.

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