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Food Safety Double Standards: Banned in Europe, Available in America

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Last Updated on July 7, 2024 by Max

Welcome to Our Series on Food Safety Double Standards

This informative series explores a critical and often overlooked aspect of our daily diet: the differing food safety standards between Europe and the United States. Each post in this series will dive into various food additives and practices banned or heavily restricted in Europe due to health concerns but remain legal and widely used in the U.S. From preservatives in our snacks to the processing methods of our poultry, we uncover the hidden facets of food regulation, highlighting how what’s on our plates is governed by contrasting approaches to health and safety.

Our journey will take us through a detailed examination of substances like Brominated Vegetable Oil, Azo Dyes, Potassium Bromate, and others, offering insights into their usage, potential health impacts, and the regulatory philosophies that guide their application.

Join us as we navigate this complex terrain, aiming to inform and engage in a meaningful discussion about what we eat and how it affects our health. Your thoughts and opinions are invaluable, so we encourage you to share and participate in this vital conversation.

The Hidden Dangers in Our Food

In our fast-paced world, convenience often trumps all else, particularly when it comes to food. However, this convenience may come with a hidden cost. Many food ingredients widely used in the United States are raising eyebrows among health experts. While legal in the U.S., some of these substances are banned or heavily regulated in Europe due to associated health risks.

Chronic diseases like heart disease, diabetes, and certain cancers are rising. Research suggests that our diet – specifically, certain food additives – may be a contributing factor. One of the most concerning aspects is the potential link between these substances and chronic inflammation, a key driver of many diseases.
This article will delve into food additives, exploring why some ingredients that Europe deems unsafe are still permitted in the U.S. and how they might impact our health.

The Double Standard in Food Safety

In the global kitchen of food regulations, not all recipes for safety are created equal. The divergence in food safety standards between the European Union and the United States is a prime example of this discrepancy.
In broad strokes, the EU operates under the “precautionary principle,” a policy that essentially means that if an ingredient is suspected of causing harm to the public or the environment, it is banned or restricted until proven safe. On the other hand, the U.S. typically follows a “proof of harm” principle, which means an ingredient is generally considered safe until definitive evidence shows otherwise.
This stark contrast in regulatory approaches has resulted in a list of food ingredients that are no longer allowed in the EU due to potential health risks but continue to be permitted and used in the U.S. Let us take a look at each. As we delve deeper, we will explore why these ingredients are still allowed in the U.S., despite their potential health risks. However, we would like to know your thoughts before we do that. Were you aware of these differences in food safety standards? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.

BHA and BHT: A Closer Look at These Controversial Preservatives

BHA and BHT| Healthy Prostate

Butylated Hydroxyanisole (BHA) and Butylated Hydroxytoluene (BHT) are two preservatives that have been in the spotlight for their potential health risks, particularly their possible carcinogenic effects (Williams, G.M., et al., 1999). These synthetic antioxidants are widely used in the U.S. to prevent the oxidation and rancidity of fats in foods, enhancing their shelf life.

Animal studies have shown that BHA can cause certain types of cancer, including papillomas and squamous cell carcinomas (Williams, G.M. et al., 1999). However, the evidence in humans still needs to be conclusive. The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), an arm of the World Health Organization, has classified BHA as a possible human carcinogen.

On the other hand, BHT has not been classified as a carcinogen by the IARC. While some animal studies have suggested a potential for liver, thyroid, and kidney carcinomas with high doses of BHT, other studies have shown anti-carcinogenic effects, contributing to the ongoing debate about its safety (Williams, al.,1999).

In contrast to the U.S., the EU has taken a more cautious approach due to these potential health risks. The use of BHA and BHT in food products is restricted in Europe, and they can only be used in certain food categories under specific conditions (European Food Safety Authority (EFSA), 2012).

The crux of the issue lies in balancing the benefits of these preservatives – preventing food spoilage and extending shelf life – and their potential health risks. One could argue that the “precautionary principle” employed by the EU prioritizes public health, while the “proof of harm” principle used by the U.S. prioritizes economic efficiency (Williams, G.M., Iatropoulos, M.J., & Whysner, J., 1999).

We must grapple with this: Are we willing to trade off potential health risks for the convenience of longer-lasting food? How do you feel about the use of these preservatives in our food? As we continue uncovering the nuances of these double food safety standards, we encourage you to share your thoughts in the comments section.


  • Williams, G.M., Iatropoulos, M.J., & Whysner, J. (1999). Safety assessment of butylated hydroxyanisole and butylated hydroxytoluene as antioxidant food additives. Food and Chemical Toxicology, 37(9-10), 1027-1038.
  • European Food Safety Authority (EFSA). (2012). Re-evaluation of butylated hydroxytoluene BHT (E 321) as a food additive. EFSA Journal, 10(3), 2588.

7 thoughts on “Food Safety Double Standards: Banned in Europe, Available in America”

  1. Hey,

    Thank you for shedding light on this important issue. It’s disheartening to learn about the discrepancies in food safety standards between Europe and America. As consumers, we should all have access to safe and healthy food, regardless of where we live. It’s high time for more transparency and harmonization in food regulations to ensure the well-being of everyone.

    1. Dear Jake,
      Thanks a lot for your comment! It’s indeed worrying to see the differences in food safety standards between Europe and the U.S. I agree that everyone deserves access to safe and healthy food, and we all must stay informed and make conscious choices about what we consume.
      Best regards,

  2. This article on the differences in food safety standards between Europe and the United States is incredibly eye-opening. It’s alarming to learn about the divergent approaches to food regulation, especially with substances like BHA and BHT, which are restricted in Europe but widely used in the U.S. due to their potential carcinogenic effects. The contrast between the EU’s precautionary principle and the U.S.’s proof of harm approach really highlights the significant discrepancies in food safety perceptions and regulations. I’m curious, how do these differing standards impact global food trade and consumer choices, especially for those who are health-conscious?

    1. Hi Corey,

      You’ve highlighted a crucial issue in global food trade. These varying standards significantly impact international trade agreements and policies. For health-conscious consumers, especially those with access to global markets, it can lead to a preference for products adhering to stricter safety regulations. This discrepancy can also influence multinational companies to reformulate products to meet the highest standards, thereby benefiting consumers worldwide. However, it’s a complex landscape with economic, political, and cultural factors at play, making it a continuously evolving scenario.


  3. Wow!! I thought my wife was going overboard with all the organic stuff she insists we buy but after reading your article I may owe her an apology!! In your mind, you know foods have preservatives and they aren’t good for you but it isn’t until you read an article like this really outlining the dangers and issues that it really sinks in, this is a big problem that unfortunately I doubt will go away so. But if this post can open some eyes and make people realise then it will certainly help them be healthier people for it!!

    1. Hi Ryan,

      I’m glad that the article gave you a new perspective on food safety and the importance of organic choices. It’s encouraging to hear that it’s helped you appreciate your wife’s efforts in making healthier choices for your family. Indeed, being aware of what we consume is crucial, and while it’s challenging to change industry standards overnight, individual informed choices can make a big difference. Keep exploring and making health-conscious decisions!

      Best regards,

  4. Thank you for your article. I would be interested in reading more about foods that are banned in Europe but still legal in the U.S. I go back and forth between being a healthy eater and a convenience eater. When I shop in the grocery store, I buy very few items from the “center aisles” where most fake food is. I try to buy fresh meats and vegetables. On the other hand, I do go go fast foods more than occasionally. How do we know what foods have BHA and BHT? Is it listed that way in the ingredients? 

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