For the longest time, the United States has been the land of opportunity for people all over the world for a better life. The U.S. has drawn some of the most intelligent, talented and ambitious minds of our time to come to this country and contribute to its ever-growing advancements in every field. In the past two decades, the amount of research being conducted, both public and private, has grown 6-fold.1 Here we are going to focus on research related to the health of human beings. The purpose of this literature review is to further understand what happens to health promoting research and why it doesn’t always translate into positive change to protect the health of Americans.
In the United States in 2018, according to the American Heart Association, about 92.1 million Americans are living with some form of cardiovascular disease. According to the National Cancer Institute, in 2018 an estimated 1,735,350 new cases of cancer have been diagnosed in the United States and 609,640 people will die from the disease. According to the CDC, in 2015 9.4% of Americans were diagnosed with diabetes. These numbers are roughly 2 times higher than the UK and are 3 times higher than Canada. All of these nations are developed first world countries. So why are the numbers significantly higher in the United States? Especially since, according to Reuters, in 2017 the United States spent $ 3.5 trillion on healthcare. What is different in our diets, our water and our air? And why is there such a significant difference? All these questions have been asked over and over again by scientists across the nation. Research projects and years of study have been trying to understand more deeply the effects of longer shelf life of foods for example or the effects of BPA on the human body in hopes to initiate change in regulation guidelines and public health policy. But in many instances, the American people have yet to see the change. Where is the breakdown in this process and what are the reasons behind the research not always translating to change and overall better health as a nation?
A broad search was conducted to identify key terms, to assess the various forms of literature and to establish a generalized structure for the review. The search strategy was refined and sources were identified by searching PubMed, government agency websites, independent research publications, and news articles. Inclusion criteria included reviews/publications of BPA/BPS, dyes (yellow#5, yellow#6, Red 3, Red 40), and BHT/BHA safety, Centers of Disease Control (CDC), National Institutes of Health (NIH), and Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and their stances on various food additives as well as toxic exposure risks and safety limits. Searches were limited to primarily research and policy in the United States, but included some other first world countries and their policies for comparison purposes.
Given the scope of this public health issue with our government, there were a small amount of peer reviewed papers. Internet searches were conducted using the ‘Google’ search engine searching the term ‘why does the U.S. government allow toxic chemicals in American products’. There were 55,700 results. A practical approach was adopted, and the first 100 relevant results were reviewed. Of the 100 that were reviewed, 7 met the inclusion and topic criteria. A data extraction form was used to manage details of reviewed articles. Data extracted included the title and type of source, date published, the main points, and comments.
- Thorough comparison and contrast of findings are provided and relate to the main discussion points in the order of their appearance in the purpose statement.
- Focus is on research findings rather than research methods.
- Study limitations that might have led to different findings are discussed.
- Gaps and controversies that exist in the literature are clearly discussed.
Seven sources the inclusion criteria. Below is the data extraction form. Excluded papers after full review and reasons for rejection are available from the author if needed.
A personal search was conducted comparing food labels of products from the U.S. and the U.K. to gain clarity on how the same foods CAN be made/packaged in a toxic-free way given the Government steps in with more strict regulations. If food in the United States is sick filled with GMO’s, chemicals, additives, artificial ingredients, and/or carcinogens then it would make sense that Americans are going to continue to be sick.
Using banned ingredients that other countries have determined unsafe for human consumption has become a pandemic in this country. The U.S. food corporations are unnecessarily feeding Americans chemicals while leaving out almost all toxic ingredients 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.
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), and Starburst (owned by M&M/Mars). In the examples below, red text indicates potentially harmful ingredients and/or ingredients likely to contain GMOs.
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.”
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. French fries in the U.K. version are 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 in the U.S.? Why do McDonald’s french fries in the U.S. have to have TBHQ, trans fat and “anti-foaming” agents? 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 to the FDA for allowing companies to put toxins in our french fries.
Pizza Hut does a huge disservice to Americans 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 elsewhere. Junk food companies intentionally add this combination of ingredients to create sensory overload by exciting a person’s brain cells to remember the food they are eating and make less nutritious ingredients taste better.
The food industry has not completely eliminated these same tricks abroad, but when the U.K. version of garlic cheese bread is broken down, the ingredients look pretty basic. Many of the ingredients people would be able to use at home to make garlic bread. TBHQ 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.
The U.S. version of Pringles has MSG added twice! Once in its known name and again in a hidden source, called “yeast extract.” This begs the question “Why are the American people 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 health.
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. Ideally, products marketed toward children would have stricter FDA regulations. Unfortunately, this is not the case.
In regards to targeting children, food companies have found a way to naturally color candy all over Europe, but candy here in the U.S. is still full of artificial substances made from petroleum and GMO sugar. Looking at the ingredients in Starburst Fruit Chews provides a great example.
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.
This research 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.
Toxins in Our Environment Findings
Dr. Michael Siegal of Boston University and David Jernigan of Johns Hopkins University conducted a NIH funded study to find out the effects of Alcohol Advertising on underaged drinking. NIH funding’s goal
To sum up, there are two sides of research in the United States in regards to toxic chemicals in our foods and products. The first side consists of scientists who are trying to conduct research to improve and protect the health of Americans. The second side consists of scientists who have ‘undisclosed conflicts of interest’ and are publishing studies to create scientific doubt leaving the American people unsure as to which research is the actual truth. Ideally, at this point the U.S. government would step in to regulate the industries, but as seen with the effects of Alcohol Advertising on underaged drinking study, the United States government can be bought. This leaves the American people to navigate through thousands of chemicals, dyes and additives entirely on their own to determine safety for themselves and their families.
- Myers, J. P., vom Saal, F. S., Akingbemi, B. T., Arizono, K., Belcher, S., Colborn, T., … Zoeller, R. T. (2009). Why Public Health Agencies Cannot Depend on Good Laboratory Practices as a Criterion for Selecting Data: The Case of Bisphenol A. Environmental Health Perspectives, 117(3), 309–315. http://doi.org/10.1289/ehp.0800173 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2661896/
- Mol Cell Endocrinol. 2014 Dec;398(1-2):101-13. doi: 10.1016/j.mce.2014.09.028. Epub 2014 Oct 7. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25304273
- Benac, N. (2011). US panel rejects calls for warning labels on link between food dyes and hyperactivity. CMAJ : Canadian Medical Association Journal, 183(9), E533–E534. http://doi.org/10.1503/cmaj.109-3867 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3114923/
- de Vendômois JS, Roullier F, Cellier D, Séralini GE. A Comparison of the Effects of Three GM Corn Varieties on Mammalian Health. Int J Biol Sci 2009; 5(7):706-726. doi:10.7150/ijbs.5.706. Available from http://www.ijbs.com/v05p0706.htm