Same-same, but different.
Until as recently as 2020, Mountain Dew contained Brominated Vegetable Oil (BVO), which is banned in Europe and 100 other countries. The chemical is a flame retardant and can harm the body in many ways. Walmart’s Orangette Orange Soda still contains this ingredient and you’d want to check the labels of other sodas you pick up at the supermarket to avoid it.
There are many other snacks, treats, and foods Americans enjoy that have harmful chemicals banned elsewhere. European countries are particularly strict about what consumers are putting in their body, so the original treats Americans enjoy aren’t available, or they are manufactured without those ingredients. Next time you travel to Europe, pop into a grocery store and make comparisons.
Kellogg’s Special K
The UK stopped Kellogg’s promotional ads for Special K cereal due to misleading nutritional claims, but in Denmark, this box of diet cereal was banned in 2004. The reason? The high levels of vitamins and minerals that Denmark regulators say could be toxic for kids if consumed regularly. Cereals have been under fire for years for their high-sugar content and additives, so you should be extra careful when you buy a box.
Meat With Ractopamine
If you were looking at the world news closely last year, you would have noticed that the Taiwanese were protesting an executive order: import of American pork and beef containing ractopamine. Ractopamine is a drug that increases weight in pigs, turkey, and cattle. It is banned in China, Russia, Europe, and Taiwan (160 nations in all) because it’s harmful to humans—it can cause cardiovascular issues and hyperactivity. In the U.S., 60-80% of pigs in the U.S. are given this drug.
Another drug that’s common in the U.S. is bovine growth hormone because it increases milk production in cows. It’s not only Europe that opposes this drug, but Ben & Jerry’s does, too. Interestingly, hormone-treated meat that Americans consume is banned in Europe, but the country signed a new deal in 2019 with the bloc to increase the supply of hormone-free beef.
In the U.S., it’s a common practice to wash chicken in chlorine to remove harmful bacteria. In Europe, the practice has been banned since 1997, thus poultry from the U.S. is not allowed either. While the E.U. says this process itself isn’t dangerous, it may be hiding poor hygiene standards overall, such as overcrowding in poultry houses, and compromising animal welfare.
There were fears in the UK that supermarkets will start selling meat and poultry that doesn’t meet E.U. standards after the country leaves the union. However, supermarkets have reassured its consumers that chlorinated chicken and hormone-flushed meat will never make it on the shelves.
Foods With Coloring
Artificial food coloring is in everything from cereals to candy (the rainbow of Skittles is derived from dyes), but it doesn’t make it safe for consumption. Yellow dye 5 and 6 and Red No. 40 have been linked to allergic reactions and hyperactivity in kids. Besides, food dyes add no nutritional value to the food apart from making it look pretty. In Europe, products containing these dyes need to come with a warning, which has discouraged their use. In Japan, Yellow 6 is banned. There are calls in the U.S. to ban these food colors, too.
The brands that are using artificial coloring in the U.S. are making products without any dyes in countries that don’t permit them. Take Doritos for example. It adds Red 40 and Yellow 5 to its U.S. packs, but not in the UK products. Kraft Mac & Cheese removed yellow dyes in 2013 after public calls. Mars made the announcement that it’ll remove all dyes from M&M’s after a Change.org petition called for the switch. However, the website still lists Yellow 5, Yellow 6, and Red 40 as ingredients—they aren’t present in Europe—because the company says “many of our consumers across the world do not, in fact, find artificial colors to be ingredients of concern.”
Breads & Baked Goods
There are two things you should look for when you’re buying bread and bread-based products (including frozen dinners): Azodicarbonamide (ACA) and potassium bromate. Both have the FDA “generally recognized as safe” approval, but are banned in Europe. The FDA allows small amounts of these chemicals and says they’re safe in such quantities, The Guardian reported.
Azodicarbonamide is used to whiten flour and leaven dough, but it has been linked to cancer in animals. This dough conditioner is also used in yoga mats. It’s commonly used by bakeries and bread products (as many as 500 products had it in 2014) and in 2014, Subway removed it from its ingredients. Potassium bromate—used to strengthen bread and help it rise—is a possible carcinogen for humans.
Though many brands stopped using ACA (including Starbucks and McDonalds), azodicarbonamide was still listed as an ingredient in Arby’s croissant, French toast sticks, and sourdough breakfast bread (as of December 2020).
Next time you’re buying bread, muffins, and buns, make sure you check for these two ingredients!
This one’s not about a harmful or banned ingredient. Sweden has blocked M&M’s because the packaging of this sugary treat closely resembles a Swedish chocolate-covered peanut brand, M Peanut by Marabou. A court ruled over this trademark battle in Marabou’s favor in 2016, effectively banning M&M’s so long as they use their trademark “m.”