food-news

You're probably eating some of these banned foods—are they really unsafe?!

July 1, 2013 at 12:43 PM ET

Food additives: Are They Safe?
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Food additives: Are They Safe?

Were you among the folks who read the BuzzFeed story about the crazy chemicals found in food in the U.S., and shared it with your friends on social media?

If you were, you were far from alone. That story, which rounded up eight foods that are banned in other countries but readily available in this one (which pulled from husband-wife team Dr. Jayson Calton and nutritionist Mira Calton’s new book, Rich Food, Poor Food) has more than 5 million page views.

The foods mentioned in the story included the likes of artificial food dyes ("linked to brain cancer") and arsenic ("poison, which will kill you if you ingest enough"). How unequivocally terrifying, right?

The list included the following ingredients: artificial food dye, Olestra/Olean, brominated vegetable oil, potassium bromate, Azodicarbonamide, BHA and BHT, synthetic growth hormones and arsenic

Well, not everyone's buying it. Shortly after the BuzzFeed piece went viral, chemist Derek Lowe wrote a blog post that utterly eviscerated it point by point. He claimed that much of what was found in that story was unscientific fear mongering—or at the very least, just uncritical, lazy thinking.

For instance, he wrote: "In my experience, people who write things like this have divided the world into two categories: wholesome, natural, healthy stuff and toxic chemical poisons. But this is grievously simple-minded…. There are plenty of natural substances, made by healthy creatures in beautiful, unpolluted environments, that will nonetheless kill you in agony… And there are plenty of man-made substances that really won't do much of anything to people at all."

(BuzzFeed actually appended a correction to its story in response to some of Lowe's points.)

ABC News has also taken notice of the swirling controversy, and is out with a piece summarizing the key points of the debate. In it, it cites the Food and Drug Administration's reassurance that the agency is doing what it needs to do to monitor food safety and protect us. And ABC also cites a team of experts who analyze ingredients banned in other countries.

From where we sit, all this talk about what constitutes healthy food is great for us, the consumers. Opening the dialogue—and welcoming scientific fact, and not just rumor—into a public debate seems like it can only be a good thing, right?

We also know some folks already have their minds firmly made up, one way or the other. So let us know where you stand in the comments: Will you think twice about feeding your family these foods, or do you feel they're generally safe in normal doses?

Alesandra Dubin is a Los Angeles-based writer and the founder of home and travel blog Homebody in Motion. Follow her on Google+ and Twitter.

A version of this story originally appeared on iVillage.

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