By Dr. Mercola
McDonalds, a poster child for the average fast food diet, has yet again been exposed for selling foods containing far more hazardous ingredients to American customers.
Repeatedly, we find that processed foods—which are bad enough even without added chemicals—contain far more hazardous ingredients in the US compared to other nations, most notably Europe.
In fact, many of the foods Americans eat on a regular basis are banned in other countries. On the upside, companies like Frito Lays has actually started offering a certified organic version of its popular potato chip, but it's only sold in certain stores.
With all the known health issues associated with junk food, why not offer this healthier organic version everywhere? Granted, organic potato chips are by no means a health food. But if you're going to eat chips, organic chips would certainly be the lesser evil.
There are countless of examples showing that processed food does not have to be quite as harmful as it currently is, yet there's a pervasive double standard. Americans get processed foods that are absolutely chock full of additives, while the same products sold in other nations are made with far fewer ingredients, and less hazardous ones.
McDonald's French Fries Contain Far Less Junk in the UK Than the US
FOX news1 recently reported that McDonald's French fries sold in the UK contain far fewer ingredients, which is typically a hallmark of a healthier product. Even if it is highly processed, and therefore not a good foundational part of your diet, at least you're getting less toxic exposure with each bite when you do eat it.
For starters, in the US, McDonald's French fries are made with potatoes cooked in hydrogenated canola and/or soybean oil—two of the worst cooking oils you can use; both of which are also in all likelihood the genetically engineered varieties.
American fries also contain TBHQ; antifoaming agents, preservatives, and color stabilizers. For some reason, American French fries also contain beef flavor, made with wheat and milk derivatives. As a result, they carry an allergy warning for those with wheat and dairy sensitivities.
Meanwhile, French fries sold in the UK consist of potatoes cooked in non-hydrogenated sunflower or rapeseed oil, and nothing else. Salt is added after cooking. Realize that both of these oils aren't great as they are both high omega 6 oils that become oxidized to cyclic aldehydes and the rapeseed is GMO.
Still, if McDonald's can make a tasty French fry without preservatives, antifoaming agents, color stabilizers, TBHQ, and added flavorings for its British restaurants, why do they refuse to make them without this junk for Americans?
American Food Contains Thousands of Hazardous Food Additives
More than 3,000 food additives -- preservatives, flavorings, colors and other ingredients -- are added to US foods, including infant foods and foods targeted to young children.
Meanwhile, many of these are banned in other countries, based on research showing toxicity and hazardous health effects, especially with respect to adverse effects on children's behavior.
This includes food colorings such as red 40, yellow 5, yellow 6, and/or blue 2, which has been shown to cause behavioral problems, allergic reactions, and even cancer.
In countries where these food dyes are banned, companies employ natural colorants instead, such as paprika extract, beetroot, and annatto. But if they can do it in a host of other countries, why can't they switch over altogether, and use natural colorants in foods sold on the American market as well?
Another example: the antifoaming agent dimethylpolysiloxane, found in the American version of McDonald's French fries, is a type of silicone with anti-foaming properties used in cosmetics and a variety of other goods like Silly Putty. Does it have to be used to make a decent French fry? Apparently not. So why use it?
Ditto for TBHQ. Animal studies suggest there may be a number of health hazards associated with this chemical, including2 liver effects at very low doses; positive mutation results from in vitro tests on mammalian cells; biochemical changes at very low doses; and reproductive effects at high doses.
A question that really needs to be answered by each and every offending food company is: Why do you want to make Americans sick? You're keeping all this junk out of the UK and other countries' food supply, why not here?
The following infographic highlights 10 glaring examples where foods sold in the US contain ingredients shunned by other nations, due to their health risks.
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A Key Component of a Healthy Diet—Absence of Toxins
Now, before I get accused of promoting organic junk food, I would like to bring your attention to the featured video with Michael Pollan. A key factor of a healthy diet is the absence of toxins.
And very few processed foods can make that claim due to current agricultural methods—unless they contain 100 percent organic ingredients. In the case of McDonald's French fries, only Russet Burbank potatoes are used, as their unusual shape allows them to be cut into longer pieces.
But the potatoes must be perfect, or else McDonald's rejects them. To prevent net necrosis, which causes dark spots and lines on the potatoes, farmers use a highly toxic pesticide called Monitor. This pesticide is so toxic, farmers will not enter their fields for five days after application.
Once harvested, the potatoes are kept in atmospheric-controlled warehouses for six weeks, during which time they are inedible. They're too toxic to consume before the chemical has sufficiently off-gassed from the potatoes! But does that mean that once off-gassed, the toxin is completely removed? No.
Overall, potatoes have among the highest levels of pesticide residues of any food crop.3 In last year's pesticide testing done by the Environmental Working Group (EWG), the average potato had more pesticides by weight than any other fruit or vegetable. These chemicals penetrate the skin into the potato, making them impossible to wash off.
The point here is that the nature of the processed food industry drives chemical-heavy agriculture, which means many core ingredients are highly contaminated from the outset. So even if hazardous additives are not added to the food during processing, the food could still be a source of toxic exposure. That said, American junk food could be made to be a whole lot less hazardous than it currently is, simply by not adding extra junkinto the mix during processing...
GMA Is a Major Proponent of Keeping Toxic Foods in America
The primary offending trade association, which represents most popular processed food companies and restaurants, is the Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA). The GMA is a radical front group that has gone to great lengths to protect this toxic status quo in the American marketplace, fighting tooth and nail to prevent positive food industry changes from being implemented. Last year, I named the GMA "the most evil corporation on the planet," considering the fact that it consists primarily of pesticide producers and junk food manufacturers who violate some of your most basic rights as human beings—just to ensure that subsidized, genetically engineered and chemical-dependent, highly processed junk food remains the status quo.
Let's have the GMA's explain why its members are so insistent on making Americans sicker than other nations, by refusing to remove ingredients that are banned in other countries, and refusing to label GMOs so that everyone can make an informed choice when they're shopping food for their family. Between 2012 and 2014, the GMA have successfully blocked GMO labeling legislation in over 30 states, at a price tag of more than $100 million!
These funds were received from the 300+ members of the GMA, which include chemical/pesticide, GE seed, and processed food industries. Together, these industries are working in a symbiotic fashion to grow, subsidize, and manufacture foods that have been clearly linked to growing obesity- and chronic disease epidemics. And the use of unnecessary food additives is one factor that makes American processed foods so much worse than the same items sold in other countries.
The Food Babe Calls for Organic Chips to Be Made Available Everywhere
Food activist Vani Hari, better known as the "Food Babe" recently discovered that Frito Lays has created USDA Certified Organic Ruffles in an exclusive deal with Costco. "Costco wanted to have more organic snacks available to their customers, so they asked Frito Lay and got them," she writes.4 At the request of Costco, Frito Lays also created organic versions of Stacy's Pita Chips, and a limited-edition MSG-free Supreme Cheddar Doritos.
Vani writes: "This is why grocery stores are our friends. It's not just us activists that can get change at these mega-billion dollar food companies – there are hundreds of amazing people working within the system to drive change and it can happen fast. They are the unsung heroes you never hear about."This is certainly true, and this is exactly why I recommend talking to your local grocer. Publix, in particular, tends to be very open to customer requests for healthier foods.
Vani has just authored a book, The Food Babe Way, which you can find at your favorite bookstore, or on thefoodbabeway.com.
Beef Packers Reject Reintroduction of Hazardous Growth Promoting Drug
A related piece of rather good news is that beef packers who dominate the US meat industry are, by and large, rejecting the reintroduction of Zilmax, a growth promoting drug found to cause severe health problems in cattle. The drug came under scrutiny when, in early August, 2013, Tyson Food Inc issued a statement saying it would no longer purchase Zilmax-fed cattle for slaughter after noticing that many of the treated cows had trouble walking. The cattle also displayed other behavioral issues. Other companies followed suit, and Merck, the maker of the drug, vowed to investigate its safety. Zilmax is still FDA approved, but Merck's efforts to bring the drug back to market have been met with strong resistance from the beef industry.
As reported by NPR:5
"[T]he centerpiece of Merck's plan, a large 'field evaluation' of Zilmax, remains in limbo. This study was supposed to include up to 240,000 cattle, at a variety of commercial feedlots. Merck recruited a university researcher to carry it out, and it was supposed to begin last year. Feedlot operators are refusing to participate, though, because they don't want to be stuck with cattle that they can't sell. And their customers, the beef processors, remain skittish.
'We're not accepting cattle fed with Zilmax,' says Mike Martin, from Cargill, one of four companies that dominate the beef industry. (The others are Tyson, JBS, and National Beef.) Cargill's reluctance to take Zilmax-fed cattle, Martin says, is based in part on continued uncertainty about what caused those health problems in cattle. But he also mentioned another reason: The drug can complicate beef exports. Some countries won't accept beef from cattle that were fed Zilmax."
What's ironic here is that when there's a concern about export, food producers will make sure to produce their food without toxic drugs and additives. But if the food is destined for the American market, they use them seemingly without any concern whatsoever. Why the double standard? The US claims to be a forerunner in "science-based" food and medicine, yet only in America will you find as many toxic ingredients used on a regular basis!
The industry claims that the products banned in other countries really are safe to use—even if there's evidence to the contrary—and refuse to alter their business practices even in the face of public outcry. Yet they have no problem complying with cleaner food when another country says "no thanks, we just don't want to take the risk of feeding that to our people." Increasing numbers of Americans are really trying to clean up their diet and eat healthier, and knowing exactly how a food is grown or made, and what it contains, is part and parcel of making healthier choices.
But the US food industry doesn't appear to be entirely willing to give us what we want. They want us to eat what they make, and for some reason, what they make for the American market is typically vastly inferior to the same foods made for export to other countries. The fall-back justification food companies use when confronted about a hazardous ingredient is that it's FDA approved and legally permitted. But with current access to global information-sharing, this is a pathetic copout that speaks volumes about the mindset of the company in question.
A Healthy Diet Begins with REAL Food
There are many other examples where the US federal regulatory agencies have sold out to industry at the expense of your health, while other countries have chosen to embrace the precautionary principle in order to protect their citizens. If you want to avoid these questionable foods and other potentially harmful ingredients permitted in the US food supply, then ditching processed foods is your best option. About 90 percent of the money Americans spend on food is spent on processed foods, so there is massive room for improvement in this area for most people.
Focus your diet on whole, ideally organic foods, and remember to swap out your regular meat sources to organic, grass-fed/pasture-raised versions of beef and poultry. This may be even more important than buying organic fruits and vegetables. The same goes for dairy products and animal by-products such as eggs. Remember, one of the most compelling reasons to eat organic is to avoid toxins. Organic foods do tend to have a better nutritional profile, but even if they do not, the absence of drugs, pesticides, hormones, and antibiotics is more than enough of a reason to make the switch to protect your health.
For a step-by-step guide to make these changes in your own life, whether you live in the US or elsewhere, simply follow the advice in my optimized nutrition plan, starting with the beginner plan. If you reside in the US, the following organizations can help you locate farm-fresh foods:
|Weston Price Foundation6 has local chapters in most states, and many of them are connected with buying clubs in which you can easily purchase organic foods, including grass fed raw dairy products like milk and butter. |
|Local Harvest -- This Web site will help you find farmers' markets, family farms, and other sources of sustainably grown food in your area where you can buy produce, grass-fed meats, and many other goodies. |
|Farmers' Markets -- A national listing of farmers' markets. |
|Eat Well Guide: Wholesome Food from Healthy Animals -- The Eat Well Guide is a free online directory of sustainably raised meat, poultry, dairy, and eggs from farms, stores, restaurants, inns, and hotels, and online outlets in the United States and Canada. |
|Community Involved in Sustaining Agriculture (CISA) -- CISA is dedicated to sustaining agriculture and promoting the products of small farms. |
|FoodRoutes -- The FoodRoutes "Find Good Food" map can help you connect with local farmers to find the freshest, tastiest food possible. On their interactive map, you can find a listing for local farmers, CSAs, and markets near you. |