Hundreds of years ago, Europe began banning known toxins and poisons such as asbestos, lead and other harmful chemicals. These bans were, years later, banned from the US—some taking 100+ years to enact. When government regulations to ban ingredients and chemicals take lengthy amounts of time to conduct study after study, focusing on the economic impact and potential harm to living organisms; American people and other living organisms stand to suffer.
Here is a list of ingredients and chemicals banned in Europe and other countries, yet allowed in the United States of America:
1. Neopesticides—Banned in Europe this year. These are systemic nerve poisons which kills bees and other pollinators. The EPA recently added a new safety standard in which every pesticide company is required to label products containing Neopesticides with EPA regulated labels that state the danger to bees and other pollinators. Doesn’t this sound like the skull and crossbones originally placed on residential lead paint containers? Perhaps the bees are our canary in the mine.
2. Atrazine—Banned in Europe in 2003, Syngenta’s weed killer Atrazine is a potent endocrine disruptor that, according to UC Berkeley Professor Tyrone Hayes, “chemically castrates and feminizes wildlife and reduces immune function in both wildlife and laboratory rodents.” The chemical has also been found to induce breast and prostate cancer, retard mammary development and induce abortion in lab animals, with studies in humans suggesting similar risks. In the US, Atrazine is widely used and has become a common drinking water contaminant.
3. Arsenic in Chicken, Turkey and Pig Feed—Arsenic-based drugs are approved for use in animal feed in the US because they make animals grow quicker and make the meat appear pinker (i.e. “fresher”). The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has stated these products are safe because they contain organic arsenic, which is less toxic than the other inorganic form, which is a known carcinogen. The problem is, scientific reports surfaced stating that the organic arsenic could transform into inorganic arsenic, which has been found in elevated levels in supermarket chickens. In 2011, Pfizer announced it would voluntarily stop marketing its arsenic-based feed additive Roxarsone, but there are still several others on the market. In the European Union, meanwhile, arsenic-based compounds have never been approved as safe for animal feed.
4. Poultry Litter in Cow Feed—Chicken litter, a rendered down mix of chicken manure, dead chickens, feathers and spilled feed, is marketed as a cheap feed product for cows. The beef industry likes it because it’s even cheaper than corn and soy, so an estimated 2 BILLION pounds are purchased each year in the US. However, any cow that eats chicken litter may also be consuming various beef products intended for chickens – raising concerns about Mad Cow Disease. In the US, the use of poultry litter in cow feed is unrestricted. Europe banned all forms of animal protein, including chicken litter, in cow feed in 2001.
5. Chlorine Washes for Poultry Carcasses—The US Department of Agriculture (USDA) is rolling out new rules that would permit poultry producers to put all poultry through an antimicrobial wash, using chlorine and other chemicals to kill pathogens. We already have a problem with antibiotics causing antibiotic-resistant ”super germs” when used in the animals’ feed, and this could likely make the problem worse. Workers in the plants have also reported health problems from the chemical washes, including asthma and other respiratory problems. In the European Union, the use of chlorine washes is banned, and US poultry that’s been treated with these antimicrobial sprays are prohibited.
6. Antibiotics as Growth Promoters on Livestock Farms—Agricultural uses account for about 80 percent of all antibiotic use in the US, so it’s a major source of human antibiotic consumption. Animals are often fed antibiotics at low doses for disease prevention and growth promotion, and those antibiotics are transferred to humans via meat, and the manure used as crop fertilizer. Feeding livestock continuous, low-dose antibiotics creates antibiotic-resistant diseases. The FDA says it will focus its efforts on voluntary reform in the realm of antimicrobial use, which means the industry would have to decide to stop using low-dose antibiotics in animal feed on their own — a measure they have been vehemently opposed to because the antibiotics make the animals grow faster, which increases their profit margins. In Europe, all antibiotics used in human medicine are banned in agriculture, and no antibiotics can be used for growth-promoting purposes.
7. Ractopomine and Other Pharmaceutical Growth Enhancers in Animal Feed—Ractopamine is banned in 160 countries, including Europe, Taiwan and China. If imported meat is found to contain traces of the drug, it is turned away, while fines and imprisonment result for its use in banned countries. Yet, in the United States an estimated 60-80 percent of pigs, 30 percent of ration-fed cattle, and an unknown percentage of turkeys are pumped full of this drug in the days leading up to slaughter because it increases protein synthesis–making animals more muscular, increasing food growers’ bottom line. Additionally, up to 20 percent of ractopamine remains in the meat you buy from the supermarket, and this drug is also known to cause serious disability, including trembling, broken limbs and an inability to walk, in animals. It’s also killed more pigs than any other animal drug on the market. While Europe has remained steadfast on its Ractopamine ban, including refusing imported meat treated with it, the US is actively trying to get other nations to accept imported Ractopamine-treated pork.
8. Water Fluoridation—Many do not realize that fluoride is a drug that is available only with a prescription. Yet it’s added to municipal water supplies used by more than 180 million Americans, including infants and the elderly without any attention to personalized dosing or potential interactions. Swallowing fluoride has been shown to cause weakened bones, bone cancer, hyperactivity and/or lethargy, lowered thyroid function, lowered IQ, dementia, kidney issue, arthritis and more, while studies have failed to show benefits for preventing cavities when taken internally. Cities around the US spend millions adding fluoride to communal water supplies each year, yet most European countries do not fluoridate their water.
10. Genetically Modified (GM) Foods—The European Union has historically taken a strict, cautious stance regarding GM crops, much to the chagrin of biotech giant Monsanto and in stark contract to the US. For instance, while GM crops are banned in several European countries, and all genetically modified foods and ingredients have to be labeled, the US has recently begun passing legislation that protects the use of GM seeds and allows for unabated expansion, in addition to the fact that GM ingredients do not have to be labeled.
Virtually all of the claims of benefit of GM crops – increased yields, more food production, controlled pests and weeds, reductions in chemical use in agriculture, drought-tolerant seeds — have not materialized while evidence pointing to their serious risks for human health and the environment continues to grow.
Eventually, these products, ingredients and chemicals, which are banned in Europe and other countries, will be banned here in the US. Eventually. But, in the meantime, who pays the price?