The questionable stuff other countries block from their food supply- that’s still legal in the U.S.
ANTIBIOTICS AND HORMONES
WHERE YOU’LL FIND THEM: Antibiotics and the growth hormone rBGH are regularly given to conventional U.S. cattle to stave off sickness and help dairy cows grow faster and produce more milk. Chickens raised for poultry and eggs are also given antibiotics. The problem? Relying too heavily on antibiotics can cause bacteria to become resistant, leading to so-called superbugs, says the nonprofit Union of Concerned Scientists. Plus, there’s some worry that rBGH can cause elevated hormone levels that could potentially lead to cancer, says Robyn O’Brien, author of The Unhealthy Truth. WHERE YOU WON’T: rBGH is banned in Canada and the European Union, and the E.U. also says no to four types of antibiotics in animal feed. Meanwhile in the U.S., only organic manufacturers are prohibited from adding either substance to their foods, though some conventional manufacturers, like Ben & Jerry’s, Tillamook Cheese, and Brown Cow Farm, are now also voluntarily producing dairy products that are rBGH-free.
WHERE YOU’LL FIND THEM: Genetically modified organisms are found in major U.S. crops like corn, soy, sugar beets, and alfalfa, which are often used to make ingredients that end up in packaged foods, like high-fructose corn syrup in candy. The crops are also regularly fed to conventional livestock, which means their meat and dairy contain GMOs, too a Montclair, New Jersey, integrative pediatrician. “I don’t think we understand the answer to that question well enough yet to say with certainty that GMOs are safe.”
WHERE YOU WON’T: Over 60 countries require foods with GMOs to be labeled, including China, Australia, and France. Fortunately, the movement is gaining traction here: A handful of New England states voted in favor of supporting GMO labeling legislation.
WHERE YOU’LL FIND THEM: Seven artificial dyes are allowed in the U.S., and are used to color all kinds of conventional foods like yogurt, juice, and cereal, which makes the foods majorly appealing to kids. “Wouldn’t a child be more excited about an electric-red strawberry-flavored lollipop than one that’s a dull, red-brown color?” says Jamie Herbstman, a former consumer packaged goods mar- keter who now runs the Conscious Foods Network, a natural foods education website. Research links artificial colors to increased rates of attention deficit disorder in young kids, and—gross fact!—the fake hues are actually derived from tar and petroleum.
WHERE YOU WON’T: As usual, the European Union leads the way. There, artificial colors aren’t allowed in foods made for babies and kids. And foods not made specifically for children still must contain a warning label saying, “May have an adverse effect on activity and attention in children.” While there hasn’t been long-term human research, animal studies suggest GMOs may cause reproductive, liver, and intestinal problems, and could even be partially responsible for the rise of allergies in kids. “I have to wonder what kinds of messages genetically modified foods are sending to our bodies, especially during critical developmental periods for children,” says Heather Jeney, M.D.,
WHAT YOU CAN DO:
Just because certain ingredients aren’t banned here, doesn’t mean you can’t take a stand against the hidden nasties in our food. Read labels and only buy items that are certified organic or GMO-free, and support organizations that fight for safer food. “The Environmental Working Group is unparalleled in its resources and support for parents. Not only do they lobby on behalf of families concerned with toxicity issues, but they also conduct the science that helps influence better policy,” says Robyn O’Brien. Find out how you can take action at ewg.org.