banned foods

The Spooky Truth About Banned Ingredients

Halloween should be spooky, the food you eat should NOT be spooky. Learn how to identify banned ingredients in everyday food items.

Unfortunately, there are many common food items that use spooky ingredients here in the U.S. that are banned in other countries. Yes, that’s right, banned! We are eating foods that contain ingredients that other countries have deemed so harmful, they banned them from being made and sold for human consumption! Everyone deserves to eat food that is healthy and nutritious. Ingredients should be pronounceable and identifiable.

American Foods Banned In Other Countries

We encourage you to read labels and stay informed about what you purchase to feed yourself and your family. In general, you should be able to pronounce every ingredient that makes up the food you eat and the shorter the ingredient list, the better. This list of banned ingredients was compiled by FoodRevolution.org. More details on the harmful effects of each ingredient can be found on their site. 

Bad Ingredients in Food

For the ingredient examples below, we used the Environmental Working Group’s food database that gives food products scores based on ingredients, nutrition and processing. Learn more about their food score calculations on their website. This food database has a plethora of information on ingredients and allows you to search by brand names and ingredients. Be informed and know what’s in your food!

Dough Conditioners

Potassium bromate is banned in China, India, Brazil, the EU, and Canada. Potassium bromate is a potential human carcinogen and causes respiratory issues such as asthma. A search in the EWG food database returned 73 products that contained potassium bromate. Below is an example of wheat bread that contains this dough conditioner.

Best Choice Wheat Bread: WATER, WHOLE WHEAT FLOUR, ENRICHED UNBLEACHED WHEAT FLOUR (WHEAT FLOUR, MALTED BARLEY FLOUR, FERROUS SULFATE, NIACIN, THIAMINE MONONITRATE, RIBOFLAVIN, AND FOLIC ACID), HIGH FRUCTOSE CORN SYRUP, YEAST, VITAL WHEAT GLUTEN, CONTAINS 2% OR LESS OF EACH OF THE FOLLOWING: SOYBEAN OIL, SALT, CALCIUM STEAROYL LACTYLATE (CSL), MONO AND DIGLYCERIDES, DIACETYL TARTARIC ESTERS OF MONO-DIGLYCERIDES (DATEM), MONOCALCIUM PHOSPHATE, AMMONIUM SULFATE, MONOGLYCERIDES, CALCIUM PEROXIDE, L-CYSTEINE HYDROCHLORIDE, ENZYMES (CONTAINS WHEAT), ASCORBIC ACID (VITAMIN C), CALCIUM SULFATE, POTASSIUM BROMATE, TRICALCIUMPHOSPHATE, SOY LECITHIN, PRESERVATIVE (CALCIUM PROPIONATE).

Propylparaben 

 A preservative used in tortillas, pies, muffins and other baked goods. Propylparabens were banned in the EU for use in food and also banned in the use of cosmetics. Research has indicated the exposure to parabens could be linked to breast cancer. A search in EWG’s food database returned 31 products that still use this preservative, like Target’s hamburger buns, below.

Target’s Sesame Hamburger Buns: ENRICHED FLOUR (WHEAT FLOUR, MALTED BARLEY FLOUR, NIACIN, REDUCED IRON, THIAMIN MONONITRATE, RIBOFLAVIN, FOLIC ACID), WATER, YEAST, SUGAR, EGGS, SOYBEAN OIL, CONTAINS LESS THAN 2% OF SALT, SOY FLOUR, MALTODEXTRIN, DEXTROSE, PROPYLENE GLYCOL, SODIUM ALGINATE, SOY LECITHIN, BETA CAROTENE, YELLOW CORN FLOUR, MONO AND DIGLYCERIDES, TURMERIC, PAPRIKA, NATURAL AND ARTIFICIAL FLAVORS, SODIUM STEAROYL LACTYLATE, ASCORBIC ACID, WHEAT GLUTEN, ENZYMES, CALCIUM PROPIONATE (PRESERVATIVE) SESAME SEEDS, COOKING SPRAY (WATER, SOY PROTEIN, PROPYLENE GLYCOL, RICE SYRUP SOLIDS, SUNFLOWER OIL, METHYLPARABEN & PROPYLPARABEN [PRESERVATIVES], ACETYLATED TARTARIC ACID ESTERS OF MONO AND DIGLYCERIDES, METHYLCELLULOSE, CARAMEL COLOR, SODIUM PHOSPHATE, ARTIFICIAL FLAVOR, MIXED TOCOPHEROLS ADDED TO PROTECT FLAVOR, NITROGEN [PROPELLANT].

BHA & BHT 

BHA and BHT are preservatives often used in cereals to extend shelf life. They are banned in the United Kingdom, European Union and Japan. Over 350 products in the EWG food database were found to contain BHT. 

Life Cereal, Cinnamon : WHOLE GRAIN OAT FLOUR, SUGAR, CORN FLOUR, WHOLE WHEAT FLOUR, RICE FLOUR, CALCIUM CARBONATE, SALT, CINNAMON, DISODIUM PHOSPHATE, CARAMEL COLOR, REDUCED IRON, NIACINAMIDE*, ZINC OXIDE, YELLOW 6, BHT (PRESERVATIVE), YELLOW 5, THIAMIN MONONITRATE*, RED 40, RIBOFLAVIN*, PYRIDOXINE HYDROCHLORIDE*, NATURAL FLAVOR, FOLIC ACID*, BLUE 1.

Synthetic Food Dyes 

Synthetic food dyes, such as blue 2, yellow 5, and red 40 enhance the color of certain foods and ingredients, making them more appealing to consumers. Beverages like juices, sports drinks, soda, candy, and glazes used in baked goods all use food dyes. They are even used in products that you wouldn’t think need food dye, like mustard, salmon and pickles. 

Synthetic food dyes are banned in Europe and Australia. There are over 2,000 food items in the EWG database that contain red 40 dye. Did you think Doritos got their orange color from real nacho cheese?

Doritos, Spicy Nacho: CORN, VEGETABLE OIL (CORN, CANOLA, AND/OR SUNFLOWER OIL), MALTODEXTRIN (MADE FROM CORN), SALT, WHEY, MONOSODIUM GLUTAMATE, BUTTERMILK, ROMANO CHEESE (COW’S MILK, CHEESE CULTURES, SALT, ENZYMES), CHEDDAR CHEESE (MILK, CHEESE CULTURES, SALT, ENZYMES), CORN STARCH, ONION POWDER, GARLIC POWDER, DEXTROSE, NATURAL AND ARTIFICIAL FLAVOR, SPICES, LACTOSE, SODIUM CASEINATE, ARTIFICIAL COLOR (YELLOW 6 LAKE, RED 40 LAKE, YELLOW 6, RED 40, YELLOW 5, BLUE 1), CITRIC ACID, SUGAR, LACTIC ACID, SKIM MILK, DISODIUM INOSINATE, AND DISODIUM GUANYLATE.

Simple Healthy Ingredients

In contrast, take a look at a few products that have whole grain, plant based ingredients that you can pronounce! These all score well on the EWG food score.

One Degree Organic Foods Veganic Lentil Grain Bread: ORGANIC SPROUTED WHOLE GRAIN WHEAT FLOUR, WATER, ORGANIC WHOLE RAISIN PUREE, ORGANIC WHEAT PROTEIN, ORGANIC ROLLED OATS, YEAST, ORGANIC SPROUTED LENTIL FLOUR, UNREFINED SALT, ORGANIC CAMU CAMU POWDER.

Harris Teeter Organics Blue Corn Tortilla Chips: ORGANIC STONE GROUND BLUE CORN, ORGANIC SUNFLOWER OIL OR ORGANIC SAFFLOWER OIL, SEA SALT, WATER, TRACE OF LIME.

365 Everyday Value Whole Wheat Hamburger Buns: ORGANIC WHOLE WHEAT FLOUR, FILTERED WATER, ORGANIC EVAPORATED CANE SUGAR, ORGANIC VITAL WHEAT GLUTEN, ORGANIC EXPELLER PRESSED SOYBEAN OIL, CONTAINS 2% OR LESS OF THE FOLLOWING: YEAST, SEA SALT, ASCORBIC ACID (VITAMIN C), ORGANIC DISTILLED WHITE VINEGAR, ORGANIC CULTURED WHEAT FLOUR, MICROBIAL ENZYMES.

Let’s leave the spooky stuff for Halloween, once a year. What you eat every day should taste good and make your body feel good. Reading labels and looking for products that don’t have a label, like fruits, vegetables and non-packaged food, will help you build a diet that doesn’t give you a scare!

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