If you ask a European to describe the prototypical American, then most of them will probably say in there somewhere that they’re overweight. The unfortunate fact of the matter is that obesity is something of an epidemic in the US and more common over here than anywhere else in the world – it’s not a great way to be known.
If you then were to consider this alongside the fact that Americans have longer working hours than most Europeans, and no private healthcare system, you could be forgiven for thinking that the US government isn’t taking as good care of its citizens as many of those European governments are. So is this the case?
Well while there’s no simple answer to that question (you’d have to get pretty political), there is at least one other way in which the US seems to be a little more laissez faire when it comes to national health – and that’s in the banning of foods. There are countless examples of foods that are banned in Europe but which are still freely available in the US and this might again suggest that the US government just isn’t as bothered about what those foods are doing to people.
Examples of Foods Banned in Europe That Are Still Available in the US
Pesticides: While no-one considers pesticides foods (except insects, and it doesn’t end well for them), the fact is that many of the chemicals farmers use still end up in our diets. In the US this is something that carries on and there are lots of pesticides present in most store-bought consumables and even our water as a result. In the E.U. a ban was recently passed on 22 of the most dangerous pesticides all of which are still found in our food in the US.
Stevia: Stevia is a ‘natural’ sweetener and food additive used to enhance the flavour of many of the worse junk foods in our diets. Stevia has been around for a while and is popular in Japan as well as America, but concerns over a potential link to infertility and other negative side effects lead to it being banned in Europe.
Food Dyes: Along with sweeteners, food dyes are one of the worst culprits when it comes to controversial additives. Many food dyes have been potentially implicated in the development of ADHD (Attention Hyperactivity Deficit Disorder) and as such many of them are being considered for a ban in the UK and regulation in the EU. In the good old US though they can still be found in many of your favourite foods such as red velvet cake…
GM Crops: Many EU policies have placed restrictions on GM crops which are based around the sheer lack of research surrounding their use. While they potentially have many positive benefits for the environment and sustainability, they could also lead to things like ‘horizontal gene transfer’ – altering the DNA through our stomach linings.
Supplements: If you’re a bodybuilder in the US then you’ll have access to any number of products that just aren’t available in Europe, and many of the supplements are essentially ‘watered down’ as a result before being exported. Take for instance the testosterone enhancer from Instone – buy it in the UK and it will contain half the ingredients of its US counterpart.
Why it’s Not That Simple…
At this point you average US citizen might be feeling a little unhappy with their government and wondering why they’ve been allowed to carry on enjoying foods that could be ruining their health. In reality though it really isn’t this simple and there are many other factors to consider.
One point to bear in mind is the simple debate around freedom of choice – is it fair for the government to tell people what they can or can’t eat, or should they leave that decision to the consumer? In the UK many consumers are conversely annoyed at their ‘granny state’ interfering with every aspects of their lives. Of course the important point to ensure here is that the public are informed regarding the potential side effects of the ingredients in their foods, and this is an area where the government certainly could step in a little more.
Other points to consider is that many of these banned foods also have plus points. For instance, those pesticides that were banned in Europe? Many have criticized the action for potentially leading to an increase in Malaria. Likewise, while Stevia may have some negative implications for your health, it has also been shown to be very good for us in a number of other ways. So again here an argument could very well be made for letting the consumer choose whether they want to carry on eating it.
With supplements these are of course designed to provide health benefits, and the risk is something that the user needs to weigh up themselves when they use them (or not). And GM crops of course have a large range of benefits from helping to reduce the use of pesticides safely, to increasing yield and sustainability to providing a range of health benefits over and above natural crops.
So really it’s up to you whether you think the US government should be taking a stricter stance or letting us make up our own minds. Let us know what your thoughts are in the comments section below. Most importantly though if nothing else these differences demonstrate just how important it is to make sure you are fully informed about what you’re eating and that you do your own research so that you’re in a position to be able to make up your mind.