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The biggest danger to children is what fills their plate. Eighty percent of American food contains added sugar; growth hormones infest more proteins than ever before; and genetically modified organisms are in almost every processed food.

If that doesn’t concern you, then consider this: American children consume food items every day that are banned in other countries.

As the quality of American food worsens, children’s health deteriorates. Today, one in 11 children has asthma and one in four has a food allergy. One-third of kids suffer from one of the four dangerous child epidemics: autism, asthma, allergies and ADHD. 

Slowly, Americans are opening their eyes and reexamining the food that we serve children. But it’s not the food that endangers us – it’s what we put in the food.

The Erin Brockovich Of The Food Industry

Robyn O’Brien, author of “The Unhealthy Truth: How Our Food Is Making Us Sick and What We Can Do About It,” has become a crusader against the food industry. As a Houston-native, O’Brien calls herself an “unlikely candidate” for this position. However, that hasn’t slowed down her relentless fight against dangerous food. When others remain silent, O’Brien begs for an explanation.

In her book, O’Brien asks: “Once, when I passed those bright-blue boxes of Kraft mac ‘n’ cheese in the grocery store, I was filled with despair, guilt, and maybe some anger, too. Why were our kids being dosed with the chemicals that gave the powder its bright-orange color when the kids in England weren’t?”

Of course, O’Brien is not alone in her fight against dangerous food. In addition to developing the “Let’s Move!” campaign, Michelle Obama has pushed the Department of Agriculture to update the school wellness policy. This prevents schools from promoting unhealthy food on posters or other materials. If schools discourage harmful products like cigarettes and alcohol, why would they promote dangerous food?

Growing A Generation Of Addicts

In the documentary “Fed Up,” journalist Katie Couric and activist Laurie David explore the food landscape in America. They found that processed food is not only fueling a childhood obesity epidemic, it is breeding a generation of sugar addicts.

Sugar triggers changes in the brain the same way as other addictions such as nicotine and alcohol. An article in Huffington Post states, “Unlike alcohol, where there are regulations and restrictions, highly processed foods are accessible almost everywhere and to anyone. This is especially disconcerting when we consider children. Kids are especially vulnerable to the negative effects of addictive substances and early exposure may lead to life-long struggles.”

How To Identify Banned Food

According to the book “Rich Food, Poor Food: The Ultimate Grocery Purchasing System,” informed shoppers should avoid the following ingredients, as they are prohibited or labeled in other countries:

Blue #1 Food Coloring

Found in cereal, candy and drinks.

Blue #2 Food Coloring

Found in candy such as M&Ms.

Yellow #5, Yellow #6

Found in Kraft mac ‘n’ cheese.

Red #40

Found in cherry mix, ice cream and candy.

Brominated Vegetable Oil

Found in soda and sports drinks.

Azodicarbonamide

Found in bread and baked goods. This is banned in the U.K. and parts of Europe because it can cause asthma.

Potassium Bromate

Found in vegetable oil and bread dough. Other countries mark products containing potassium bromate with a warning label.

Olestra

Found in chips.

Butylated Hydroxyanisole (BHA) and Butylated Hydroxytoluene (BHT)

Found in Chex Mix.

rBGH and rBST

Found in some dairy products. 

Arsenic

Traces found in chicken stock.

It Comes Down To Profit

Once O’Brien discovered what is happening in the American food industry, she questioned why it is happening. The short answer? Profit.

Farmers who meet organic standards are charged more by the USDA. O’Brien explained on Prevention’s website, “So farmers that stuck to ‘organic’ food production, which by law meant without the use of genetically engineered ingredients and the chemicals required to grow them, were charged fees to prove that their crops were safe and then fees to label them. That’s like getting fined to wear a seatbelt.”

This explains the higher cost for organic food. Farmers aren’t capitalizing on a green trend – they’re trying to survive.

Start With Simple Steps

Avoiding dangerous foods seems overwhelming, but it can be done. Your child’s diet shouldn’t be restricted to kale and pomegranate – you can feed kids healthy and delicious food, like other countries do. As O’Brien says, “It’s about progress, not perfection.”

Make progress by taking small steps. Examine the ingredients in the cereal you buy.  Look for alternatives to your child’s favorite snack foods. Set an example as a thoughtful consumer. Ask your child’s teachers about the food they serve students.

O’Brien said, “No matter how frightening, or overwhelming, or just plain confusing this food issues seems to be, there are things we can do about it, just as mothers in Europe, Australia, Asia, and other developing countries around the world already have. We can make our voices heard, just as those moms have, in our schools, on TV, to our government, in our kids’ lunchroom.”

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