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  • Nina Geyfman

Chemicals Pose Threats to American Health

The processed food America indulges in everyday might be more dangerous than perceived. The chemicals contained in the majority of processed foods are used to make them last longer and taste better, but in reality, the ingredients lying in between the lines could lead to serious health issues. This potential risk of health issues among the greater population of the U.S. creates a bigger concern: Why is the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) lagging behind other nations?

In fact, chemicals such as Monosodium glutamate (MSG) have links to obesity, metabolic disorders and even detrimental effects on reproductive organs. Another common ingredient in many foods includes Red 40, a harmful dye. Studies have found that Red 40 can cause jitteriness, upset stomach, inability to concentrate and even migraines. Many people are not even aware that they are consuming these harmful substances.

Many ingredients that are banned in other countries but continue to be produced in the U.S.. According to the Generally Recognized As Safe (GRAS) rule, “manufacturers don’t have to disclose any information to the FDA of what these chemicals are, nor are required to conduct rigorous, independent safety tests prior to adding them into food.” To dive deeper into the reasoning behind this, U.S. regulators focus on the probability of a health problem by not operating on the precautionary principle, while the EU considers the possibilities. Europe implements a system in which they reevaluate the recently accepted food chemicals to ensure there are no errors. The U.S. does this to a certain degree, but many chemicals are not assessed even decades later. “It’s important to reevaluate because the field of toxicology is always progressing,” says Center for Science in the Public Interest associate Maegan McBride.

Chemicals banned in Europe but not in the U.S. include: titanium dioxide, beta hydroxy acids (BHA), butylated hydroxytoluene (BHT), recombinant bovine growth hormone (rBGH), color dyes Yellow No. 5, No. 6 and Red No. 40, and potassium bromate. In fact, potassium bromate, a known carcinogen found in bread, is banned for human consumption in Europe, India and China, but not in the U.S.. Erik Millstone, an expert on food additives at the University of Sussex, said the majority of U.S. citizens were likely entirely unaware that they were being exposed to substances in their food viewed as hazardous in Europe.

Europe’s greater concern of potential health risks is connected to its traditions of growing natural foods and their commitment to protecting both the environment and its citizens. The U.S. is behind in this spectrum, but recent bills look to ensure that the previously overlooked regulations of major health risks in today’s common diet are taken into account.


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