Next time you're enjoying a plate of giant Buffalo wings or chowing down on a giant steak, think about the size of the animal that must have produced it. Have you ever noticed how much bigger some U.S. cows, chickens, and turkeys are than their European counterparts? That's because many of America's animal farms actually mix in synthetic hormones with the feedstock, making their cows, pigs, and other animals grow a lot bigger and faster than they usually would.
While the practice has been given the thumbs up by the Food and Drug Administration, many overseas countries feel that the resultant meat and meat products are not all that safe for human consumption and disapprove of the practice. For this reason, and several others, a handful of common U.S. meat products are actually banned from sale abroad.
American beef is a prime example of meat being treated with a variety of hormones that have placed it on the banned list for several countries since 1993. U.S. chicken also makes an appearance on the banned list for being washed with chlorine. (It kills some the dangerous pathogens the chickens absorb while they're crammed into the tight quarters of their feeding pens.)
Believe it or not, a lot more of your favorite American foods might actually be banned from being sold abroad. That big slice of papaya with your morning breakfast, for example, may have been genetically altered to make it bigger and shinier and so it's banned in Europe, Japan, and several other countries that have strict rules about the sale of GE (genetically engineered) foods.
There are also plenty of food additives like Olestra, or Olean (found in potato chips), or bromated flour (commonly used in baking), or even popular food colorings like red dye #40 and yellow dye #6 (check your food labels to see how often they show up in the listed ingredients), that are widely used in American foods and beverages, from candies to sodas to vegetable oil, which are banned in most other countries.
Now, before you panic, food manufacturers who are using these additives and hormones are not necessarily trying to poison you -- some additives preserve the life of the food if it's meant to be stored for a long time, and the hormones allow more meat to be sold to meet the demands of a growing hungry population. Often, the FDA weighs the health concerns against agricultural demands and decides it's worth it, even if the European Union (with much stricter food processing laws) often doesn't agree.
Take a look at our list of some of the American meat products that are banned abroad and see if you agree.
Much of the U.S. beef cattle are fed synthetic hormones in the feedlots prior to slaughter. The chemicals are essentially growth hormones meant to increase the net amount of meat produced from each cow, but numerous concerns have been raised (by the National Cancer Association, no less) about the high incidence of hormonal cancers produced as well. As early as 1989, the EEC (European Economic Community) put its collective foot down and said that’s not okay, and banned the treated beef from being sold in any E.U. country, though some of those restrictions have since relaxed depending on the hormones used. There have also been other issues like mad cow disease, leading to China also banning American beef products. Ironically, the U.S. has banned much of the Europe’s beef products, too, because of mad cow disease.
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Pigs, Cows, and Turkeys Fed Ractopamine
Safety have slammed the U.S. for its continued use of ractopamine saying it can cause anxiety and an increased heart rate in humans. As noted by the FDA, it can also increases injury and lameness in pigs. The U.S.’s position is that the use of ractopamine favors agricultural trade over the health risks.
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As overfishing of our oceans is a serious environmental concern, the U.S. errs in favor of farmed salmon for mass consumption. However, like many other American meat products, farmed salmon is raised on a concoction of grain, antibiotics, and other drugs rendering it not at all as wholesome as we may think it is. Factory-farmed fish are intensively confined and are fed a steady diet of antibiotics and other drugs to combat the unnatural and squalid conditions of the pens. This often results in gray-colored flesh, which is then counteracted by dosing the fish with synthetic astaxanthin made from petrochemicals — which is banned in Australia and New Zealand.
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Last year the FDA finally admitted that American chicken meat contained cancer-causing arsenic. Despite the fact that arsenic is a well-known toxin and carcinogen it’s often added to chicken feed in the U.S. to help promote growth and kill parasites. In 1999, serious health concerns prompted the European Union to ban arsenic-based feed additives. Even some states, like Maryland, have pushed back on using arsenic in the feedstock — but, by and large, it’s still widely used.
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Generally speaking, American-raised chickens are bred in incredibly cramped conditions. Thousands of birds are literally stuffed inside massive warehouses and spend their lives standing, sleeping, and eating in their own waste. It makes sense then, that the meat picks up a lot of pathogens. After the chickens are slaughtered, they’re washed in chlorine to rid them of some of nastiest germs. The European Union is not having it. Convinced the process is dangerous to humans because the chlorine likely lingers in the meat, they’ve banned these chemical baths across the E.U. They’ve also banned the chlorine-bathed chicken from the
U.S., to boot.
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Some of the mercurial concoctions of growth hormones that are routinely pumped into U.S. meat products are not just constrained to the meat alone. rBGH (recombinant bovine growth hormone), for example, is commonly fed to cows to dramatically increase milk production. While legal in the U.S. since being approved by the FDA in 1993, rBGH is not permitted in Australia, New Zealand, Canada, Japan, and the entire European Union due to human health concerns.
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-- Serusha Govender, The Daily Meal
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