How Junk Food Companies Exploit Americans with Ingredients Banned in Other Countries (Part 2/2)

This is part two of a two part series of guest posts from Vani Hari, a.k.a. Food Babe. It originally appeared here.

It is appalling to witness the examples I am about to share with you. The U.S. food corporations are unnecessarily feeding us chemicals – while leaving out almost all questionable ingredients in our friends’ products overseas. The point is the food industry has already formulated safer, better products, but they are voluntarily only selling inferior versions of these products here in America. The evidence of this runs the gamut from fast food places to boxed cake mix to cereal to candy and even oatmeal – you can’t escape it.

Some of the key American brands that are participating in this deception are McDonald’s, Pringles (owned by Kellogg’s), Pizza Hut and Quaker (owned by Pepsi), Betty Crocker (owned by General Mills), Starburst (owned by M&M/Mars), and Ritz Crackers (owned by Kraft). In the examples below, red text indicates potentially harmful ingredients and/or ingredients likely to contain GMOs.

Betty Crocker Red Velvet Cake Mix Ingredients

Betty Crocker cream cheese icing ingredients

Having a pre-made box of flour, baking soda and sugar all ready to go saves time for some people when it comes to making a cake, but does saving time have to come at the expense of chemically derived and potentially toxic ingredients?

The United States version of Betty Crocker Red Velvet cake not only has artificial colors linked to hyperactivity in children, food cravings, and obesity, but it also has partially hydrogenated oils (a.k.a. trans fat). Trans fat has been shown to be deadly even in small amounts. “Previous trials have linked even a 40-calorie-per-day increase in trans fat intake to a 23% higher risk of heart disease.” This could easily be the amount of trans fat in one serving of Betty Crocker icing alone.

Sodium benzoate is an ingredient that Coca-Cola actually removed in their Diet Coke product overseas, but you’ll still find it in their product Sprite, cake mixes and loads of other products across the USA. The Mayo Clinic reported that this preservative increases hyperactivity in children. Also, when sodium benzoate combines with ascorbic acid (vitamin C), it can form benzene, a carcinogen that damages DNA in cells and accelerates aging.

McDonald's french fries ingredients

Fast Food giants like McDonald’s and Pizza Hut are just as guilty as General Mills’ Betty Crocker.

Look closely at the ingredients in McDonald’s french fries above. Do you see how the french fries in the U.K. version are basically just potatoes, vegetable oil, a little sugar and salt? How can McDonald’s make french fries with such an uncomplicated list of ingredients all over Europe, but not over here? Why do McDonald’s french fries in the U.S. have to have TBHQ, trans fat and “anti-foaming” agents? Correct me if I’m wrong, but the last time I checked – I didn’t think Americans liked foam with their fries either!

The anti-foaming agent – dimethylpolysiloxane – is a type of silicone used in caulks and sealants and as a filler for breast implants. It’s also the key ingredient in silly putty.

Thanks FDA for allowing companies to put silly putty in our french fries. Seriously – this is out of control.

McDonald's strawberry sauce ingredients

McDonalds Strawberry Sauce in the United States includes high fructose corn syrup, red #40 and sodium benzoate, while the citizens of the U.K. get off scot-free. Instead, they get 37% real strawberries in their product and no additional flavoring or harmful preservatives.

Pizza Hut garlic cheese bread ingredients

Pizza Hut does a huge disservice to us (and their workers) by using Azodicarbonamide in their garlic cheese bread. This ingredient is banned as a food additive in the U.K., Europe, and Australia, and if you get caught using it in Singapore you can get up to 15 years in prison and be fined $450,000. The U.K. has recognized this ingredient as a potential cause of asthma if inhaled, and advises against its use in people who have sensitivity to food dye allergies and other common allergies in food, because azodicarbonamide can exacerbate the symptoms. However, Pizza Hut and many other fast food chains like Subway and Starbucks use this ingredient in their U.S. bread products.

Natural and artificial flavors and hidden MSG (in the form of autolyzed yeast extract, in this case) are commonly found throughout products in America but not elsewhereJunk food companies intentionally add this combination of ingredients to create sensory overload by exciting your brain cells to remember the food you are eating and make less nutritious ingredients taste better to you.

I’m not saying that the food industry has completely eliminated these same tricks abroad – but when you look at the U.K. version of garlic cheese bread, the ingredients look pretty basic. Many of the ingredients you could use at home to make garlic bread. I’ve never found TBHQ in the baking aisle at the grocery store, have you? TBHQ, by the way, is a preservative derived from petroleum and used in perfumes, resins, varnishes and oil field chemicals. Laboratory studies have linked TBHQ to stomach tumors. This preservative is also used by Chick-Fil-A  in their famous chicken sandwiches.

Pringles sour cream and onion chip ingredients

Reviewing the ingredients in Pringles really got me worked up….ever wonder why you can’t stop eating chips after having just one? MSG is the culprit – and in the U.S. version of Pringles, it’s added twice! Once in its known name and again in a hidden source, called “yeast extract.”

This begs the question “Why are Americans so addicted to processed food?!” The food industry has designed it that way on purpose to line their pockets with profits, at the expense of our health.

Ritz Crackers ingredients

The U.K. Ritz Crackers ingredient list resembles items that you’d find in every household around the country – but the United States version goes the extra mile to include trans fat, HFCS and natural flavor. Natural flavor can be also be a hidden form of MSG, which, again, is an additive that will likely make you eat more than you would otherwise.

Quaker Oats strawberry flavor ingedients

In the United States, Quaker Oats has several different flavors of oatmeal that contain different fruit flavored, artificially dyed pieces of dehydrated apple but that don’t actually contain any of the fruit shown on the package. But in the U.K. – they don’t even attempt to sell that garbage. They instead have a product called “Oats so Simple” that actually has REAL strawberries in it – light years ahead of our version that includes trans fat, artificial food coloring, and artificial flavors.

Rice Krispies ingredients

There’s only one difference in Rice Krispies between the U.S. and U.K. version – but it’s a big difference.  It’s one ingredient that is banned virtually in every other country, except here in the United States. That ingredient is called BHT (butylated hydroxytoluene) or BHA (butylated hydroxyanisole) and is a very common preservative used rampantly throughout packaged food in the U.S.

Test studies published by the IPCS (International Program for Chemical Safety) “show tissue inflammation, enlargement, and/or growths in 100%, and cancer in 35% of [animal] subjects” as reported in this article. How can the U.S. allow this chemical in our food – much less in cereal aimed and targeted at our kids?

Starburst Fruit Chews ingredients

And speaking of targeting our kids – food companies have found a way to naturally color candy all over Europe, but our candy here is still full of artificial substances made from petroleum and GMO sugar. Looking at the ingredients in Starburst Fruit Chews provides a great example of this disgrace.

I saved the most startling fact for last. One very cautionary set of ingredients that are included in almost all of the American products but not the U.K. products are GMO’s, in the form of either corn or soy.

There have been no long term human studies on GMOs and preliminary studies on animals show horrific consequences. For instance, a study showed GMOs caused toxic and allergic reactions, sick, sterile, and dead livestock, and damage to virtually every organ studied in lab animals. Another study revealed that female rats fed GMO soy for 15 months showed significant health issues in their uterus and reproductive cycle, compared to rats fed organic soy or those raised without soy. A 2009 French Study concluded that Glyphosate (used on GMO soy) can kill the cells in the outer layer of the human placenta, the organ that connects the mother to her fetus, providing nutrients and oxygen and emptying waste products. A Russian study conducted on hamsters that were fed GMO soy diets for two years over three generations found that by the third generation, most of the hamsters lost the ability to have babies, showed slower growth, and suffered a higher mortality rate.

Example UK genetically modified ingredient label

Example UK genetically modified ingredient label

In the U.K. food companies are required by law to list if a certain ingredient is derived from a genetically modified or genetically engineered material on the label. Out of all the products I researched, I couldn’t find one product with this label. (See example from GMO-Compass and BBC above of what it would look like if I did.)

This was very telling considering that not only have food companies taken out all sorts of hazardous chemical ingredients abroad – but they also have willingly reformulated their products without GMOs.

Food corporations in the U.S. claim reformulating their products to remove harmful ingredients or changing labels would be too expensive – but they’ve already done just that in Europe and in many other countries. Their governments listened to the outrage of their people and took the safety of their citizens’ health above everything else. Is it too much to ask the same for us in the United States of America? How much do our sickness, obesity, and mortality rates have to worsen before they respond to us?

I will leave you with this note:  Lisa and I are very disturbed about the shameful hypocrisy allowed to happen with our food supply here in the U.S. In fact we are feeling very compelled to do something about it. Stay tuned, because we are going to need every one of you to help when we are ready.

Vani Hari is Food Babe, a food activist and blogger. Follow her on Facebook, tweet her on Twitter, email her here and/or subscribe to stay updated on her latest posts.

  • Brian Klein

    Ughh. This is so frustrating!!! I don’t get why they have to put those ingredients in the American food supply, if they are already making it a different way for the european food supply. I’m assuming the answer is that the food it more addicting or something like that…

    I just came across a book that touches on this subject and is right up Fooducate’s alley:

  • seeleerun

    Thank you for this and thank you fooducate. It’s very disturbing. As a mom, it makes me wonder what can i feed my family that’s not poison…has anybody taken a look at what they do on our fruits and vegetables? Are they still healthy?

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  • JDonnelly

    I know this is disturbing and I feel your pain, but your tenor is so angry and you jump to such broad conclusions it’s hard to feel sympathetic in the end. I think your point would be just as strong and much more sobering if you just posted the two ingredient lists side by side with an explanation of what the extraneous ingredients are linked to in a scholarly fashion. We all have brains and are willing to use them. I mean, we subscribe to Fooducated right? You’re preaching to the choir.

    • winterofdicks

      So presumably because you’re subscribed to this site you no longer wish to receive content from them because they’re “preaching to the choir”? That seems somewhat perverse.

  • Erika

    Glad to have read that great info. Unfortunately the government will never change. Its all apart of their “Stuff and Starve” program. Sad truth

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  • Lydia

    I live in the UK and am pretty sure that bad media coverage and falling sales were responsible for the positive changes here.

  • James Cooper

    There is absolutely no evidence that GM foods are harmful and hundreds of paper showing that they aren’t. In addition the 2 papers by Jim Stevenson on food colors causing hyperactivity have been discredited in a study done for the FDa by Oak Ridge National Lab. And the idea that sugar GM sugar beets is somehow different than sugar from cane is ludicrous. Sugar is a pure compound.

    • SuperMom101

      Dear Mr Cooper,

      With all due respect – after I was diagnosed and treated for breast cancer at the age of 38 I no longer place in my shopping cart America’s highly processed, genetically engineered, chemically laden, artificially dyed, artifically flavored, growth hormone administered, factory farmed, franken-food. (It was actually our kid’s gym teacher that showed them how much sugar and artificial flavors,etc. that were in the so called “sports drinks.”)

      This article is terrific! Just returned from the U.K. and was actually asked by my husband and the kid’s to bring back their candy.

      Don’t you find it strange that America and her children have never been fatter or sicker and you tell us everything is fine with our food supply?

      • Karen

        SuperMom101, you are 100% correct! Thank you for standing!

    • Vitaliy Shtym

      so what is more likely to give you cancer, soybeans that were growing by themselves for thousands or years the ones that some prick decided to insert frog genes into so its easier to grow? it been proven that genetically modified foods do not have the same nutritional value and lack many vitamins and minerals than their normal counterparts.

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  • Jamie Salcedo

    The garlic bread ingredient change is surprising. It’s a scary thought to think that all the food grade tanks you see running down the highway is probably towing some of these harmful ingredients. Great post, Vani!

  • JustCurious

    I noticed that the in the US side of the labels Corn Syrup is in red but Glucose Syrup on the UK side is not. The same with HFCS on the US side and Glucose-Fructose on the UK. They are the same thing. Just because they have a different name in the UK does not make them any less bad for you. Makes the article a little misleading and/or under researched for me.

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  • priya

    someone posted a recipe about apricot bars on here, can they repost it please!!!

  • jay

    it really is sickening the way the u.s food corporation couldn’t care less about our health. the shit they feed us is poison. i try to eat as clean as i can, but it’s damn near impossible here. hell, i kind’ve wanna move to europe just for the food alone.

  • jay

    so what steps are you taking to get these abomination out of our food?

  • haily

    I don’t want make a comment. Just I ask all moms to watch the movie “Super Size Me” (youtube)