This topic has come up recently because of the issue with the Commissionary. I think people should shop off base as the food is far better quality as you know the produce and bread seem to go off before you even get it home. Of course those that have WIC can only use this on base but otherwise I would like to persuade you to shop on the economy in this post.
I have tried to contact some of the fitness coaches to see what they thought of some of the points that I will highlight but I think that they are motivated to getting people to eat better to begin with so they would be happy if people choose meat and vegetables over processed foods not seem too fussed to also suggest shopping off base. I get it.
Now I am not going to try to pretend I am this complete healthy eating guru but I have made this change to altering my eating habits purely because of my cow’s milk and soya allergy. I was diagnosed in early 2008 and therefore had to look at everything I ate to see what was in it. I could no longer have any Hamburger Helper and almost anything that would be considered American comfort food. It’s been a long journey as now I have to make everything from scratch but it has opened my eyes to the fact that these comfort foods are not doing us any good. It’s not as hard as many people think to cook from scratch. You do not have to make extravagant meals like Gordon Ramsey or Jamie Oliver but you can make the simplest things without all of those prepackaged meals. It often takes the same amount of time. I also like to do freezer dinners which are great for when you really cannot be bothered to cook.
I do feel that we are becoming more aware of what is in our food. I have certainly had my eyes opened to this after reading Fast Food Nation and watching documentaries like Food Inc on Netflix. I was proud to see the petition of mothers seeking the removal of dyes in things like Kraft’s Macaroni & Cheese (it’s not sold this way outside of the U.S.). I have learned that the FDA does not have the power we think it does. For instance, if there is an E.coli or salmonella outbreak, it cannot make the plant recall the food but only suggest it. But I digress…
One thing I don’t understand is why the U.S. Government allows these things in our food. The only thing I can think of is that the EU is made up of many socialist-democracies who have public healthcare systems. So it is beneficial for these countries to ensure that their people are as healthy as possible because it reduces the money that they spend on their people in terms of healthcare. That is not the case in the U.S. so there is no motivation to promote better health because they are not linked.
I highly recommend that you shop at places that have higher quality food even in the U.K. I like the Co-op as it is known for its ethical practices. I also suggest trying out your local butcher. It may seem expensive but I have looked at it, the meat ends up costing around the same as in the shops and definitely better quality. Plus they will know exactly where your meat comes from. I suggest not buying chicken from places like Tescos because they inject water into the meat to make them all weigh the same so after cooking, they shrink.
For fruit and vegetables, I buy at the Co-op but if you are able to shop at your local farmer’s market do it! I work full-time so can’t always get there. They will also be able to tell you about where their produce comes from.
- Chickens in the U.S. can be fed arsenic. Arsenic is well known to help animals put on weight. Race horses that would not eat properly were often given arsenic to help them. The problem is that the things that you give your chickens end up in the meat that we consume. In 2009, the FDA did withdraw its approval for 3 of the 4 arsenic drugs that are used in poultry but the fourth is still able to be used.
- Chicken carcasses in the U.S. are able to be washed in the chlorine to kill pathogens. This practice is banned in the EU and they also ban U.S. meat that has been through this process.
- Synthetic hormones used in meat and meat products have been banned in the EU since 1988. In fact, they do not allow the import of U.S. beef since 1999 because of the hormones used in the rearing of these animals.
- Antibiotics are fed at low dosages to livestock to prevent infections in the U.S. This can be transferred to you through the meat. In the EU, antibiotics that are used by humans are not allowed in agriculture and they cannot use antibiotics for growth-promoting purposes.
- The EU bans the use of ractopamine and it bans the import of meat that is found with traces of the drug. This drug is used to help animals increase their protein. It has been known to affect the human cardiovascular system, and is thought to be responsible for hyperactivity.
- Gestational crates that breeding pigs unable to turn around in their stalls and cause severe stress to the animals have been banned in the EU but is still widely used in the U.S.
- Due to the outbreak of mad cow disease, the EU banned all forms of animal protein in cow feed in 2001. This is still fed to cows in the U.S. because it is cheaper than corn and soy.
- You can still take this further and either buy organic meat which means that the animals are feed organic feed but it still allows a small amount of chemicals in it.
- You can also buy free range meat as well. You will see the pigs that are kept in the local area are free range.
- Recombinant bovine Somatotropin (rBST) and Recombinant bovine growth hormone (rBGH) are synthetic hormones fed to dairy cows to make them produce more milk which are used in the U.S. but are banned from being used in the EU.
- Eggs are federally required to be washed in the U.S. before they are given to consumers. In the EU, they are not allowed to be washed because the natural protective barrier is compromised after being washed. They also hope that it will promote better husbandry at the farms because the eggs cannot be cleaned. This is why eggs in the EU can be stored outside of the fridge and in the US they need to be refrigerated.
- You can also buy free range eggs here which mean that the chickens are not kept in cages.
- If you go to a grocery store in England and look at the cheddar cheese, you will find it is not the same as the Kraft cheese we have come to know and love. The reasoning behind the difference based on my research is that the cheddar cheese in the States is dyed. Here is the logic: Cows eat grass and grass produces beta carotene and that ends up in the cheese and causes it to be orange. Later in the year, the cows eat less grass and therefore the colour of the cheese becomes a lighter colour. So cheese producers would dye the cheese so consumers could not determine when the cheese was made. That has now become the standard in the States now.
- The weed killer Atrazine has been banned in the EU since 2003. It is used in the U.S and is becoming a common drinking water contaminant. Atrazine has been proven to induce breast and prostate cancer, retard mammary development and induce abortion in lab animals, with studies in humans suggesting similar risks.
- Diphenylamine (aka DPA) is used to give the glossy appearance on apples. The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) has classed it as a poison. Its chemical can breakdown into a carcinogen and cause cancer.
- Buying organic does not mean it is grown fully without chemicals but only less and from a small approved list.
- Bread with Potassium Bromate- used to reduce baking time and increase the elasticity of the dough. Ingesting large quantities can cause kidney and nerve damage, thyroid issues, digestive disorders, and cancer banned in the EU but allowed in the U.S.
- Butylated hydroxyanisole (BHA) and butylated hydroxytoluene (BHT) are preservatives found in cereals, meat, beer and other items. This is banned in infant food in the UK and parts of the EU and has been linked to allergies and may cause cancer.
- The UK and EU are highly against artificial colours because they can cause hyperactivity, brain and nerve damage, birth defects, allergies, and cancer. Some of the ones that they do not allow are red 40 and yellow 5. Many of these are made from coal tar which is used to protect industrial floors and in head lice shampoos.
- Olestra, aka Olean, is a substitute for fat in fat free products. It depletes essential vitamins and can cause anal leakages.
- Brominated vegetable oil (BVO) is used in many soft drinks made by Coca-Cola and Pepsi in the US but it is banned in the EU. It is used to help the artificial colours in the drinks to dissolve and help the appearance. It has been linked to birth defects and major organ damage.
- It is thought that High Frutcose Corn Syrup (HFCS) is banned in the EU but it is not. It is not widely used as seen below in the photo of the ketchup. During the discussion about the Commissionary one person said that things were not banned in the EU but due to trade policies. Overall that is not true until you start talking about HFCS. The EU has limited the levels of HFCS to ensure the fair agricultural/economic development across all territories in the EU.
- Fluoride is not added to the water in some areas in the UK. This is because it has been shown to cause weakened bones, bone cancer, hyperactivity and/or lethargy, decreased thyroid function, decreased IQ, dementia, kidney issues, and arthritis.
I would also like to show you the difference in the labelling in the UK and US of some familiar products.
In this picture, the ketchup on the top is from the U.S. and the other is the U.K. Quite frightening the stuff that is in it.
This is a box of pop tarts. On the front of the box it says "Good Source of 7 Vitamins and Minerals” covered on the front. On the back, there is a warning about the effects of the ingredients. Would people eat this in the US if the packaging was like this?
There are things that the U.S. bans from the EU:
- Kinder Surprises are banned because the toy is encased in the chocolate. It is the most confiscated item by the U.S. Customs. You can get a fine up to $2,000 per egg. There is one that has been made that meets the regulations to be sent to America where a little bit of the toy is visible.
- While you are overseas, you should get your fill for the many unpasteurized cheeses that are made here. Unpasteurized cheeses are illegal in the U.S.
- Haggis is banned because it is made from sheep's lungs.
After researching the food practices that are still allowed in the U.S. but not in the EU. I should hope that people can see why the food is more expensive in the UK and see how much you actually get for your money.
If you are appalled at these practices still allowed in the U.S. there are things that you can do. Vote with your purchases, contact the suppliers or hold petitions like the one the mothers did with Kraft. Write the FDA and your congressman. We deserve better but change comes from the people not from the FDA.
All the Best!
American to Britain