Did you know that everyday you’re likely eating foods that have been banned in other countries, mostly because they contain ingredients that other countries have deemed unhealthy? It’s true, and while lots and lots of food choices contain ingredients that you don’t want to ingest, you may not be taking the time to check labels, etc. It’s not always easy to know what’s bad and what’s just a more scientific name for an otherwise innocuous ingredient. So, we’re going to give you a list of a few things to watch out for and hopefully avoid.
Farm-Raised Salmon: You might be thinking, “Hold the phone! I thought salmon was good for me!” It is, but in the case of farm-raised salmon, the fish are fed a diet that is unnatural to them and so it leaves their flesh a kind of grayish color. In the wild, salmon get their pretty pink color from the natural carotenoids in their diet—and that’s how you recognize salmon, right? So, if the fish don’t have that color because they aren’t eating food naturally rich in carotenoids, what do you do? You feed them something (synthetic astaxanthin made from petrochemicals) that makes them turn a reddish-pink. What to do if you want your salmon but you don’t want a fish raised on a cocktail of chemicals and antibiotics? Look for wild caught Alaskan or Sockeye Salmon and you should be safe. Most salmon labeled “Atlantic” salmon is farm-raised. Another tip: Sockeye salmon is bright red and very lean, so the white stripes of fat that you see will be very thin. If you’re looking at a lighter pink fish with wider white stripes of fat, you’re probably looking at a farm-raised salmon. Farm-raised salmon is banned in Australia and New Zealand.
Brominated Vegetable Oil (or BVO): Originally patented by chemical companies as a flame retardant it now colors many common beverages. It can be found in Mountain Dew, some other citrus flavored sodas and sports drinks. This little chemical has been shown to bioaccumulate in human tissue and breast milk; studies in animals involving large doses have shown reproductive and behavioral problems. Do your research on this one; there are a host of other problems linked to this additive. Originally, the FDA classified BVO’s safety as ‘generally recognized as safe’, but they’ve since turned back a bit and define it as an ‘interim food additive,’ a category reserved for possibly questionable substances used in food. BVO has been banned in Europe and Japan.
Olestra/Olean: A calorie and cholesterol-free fat substitute used in fat-free snacks like chips and French fries. Lots of people look at foods that say “fat free” and get excited—they can eat junk food but it’s healthy. Not so fast. Remember those phrases, “If it seems too good to be true, it probably is,” and “Nothing comes for free”? Please apply them here. You’ve dropped the fat, sure, but you’ve added synthetic chemicals. Time Magazine called it “One of the Worst 50 Inventions Ever” and had this to say about Olestra/Olean:
“Not only did a 2011 study from Purdue University conclude rats fed potato chips made with Olean gained weight, there have been several reports of adverse intestinal reactions to the fake fat including diarrhea, cramps and leaky bowels. And because it interferes with the absorption of fat soluble vitamins such as A, D, E and K, the FDA requires these vitamins be added to any product made with Olean or olestra.”
Olestra/Olean has been banned in the UK and Canada.
Next week we’ll bring you a few more foods to think twice about, but in the meantime, take a look, read some labels, do some research. What do you think about foods that have been banned in other countries? Should the FDA take another look at them?