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What is With Food In the U.S. ?

This article is not intended to be medical, healthcare, or dietary advice. Before you start any health related regimen, you should seek the advice of your Primary Care Physician, or an M.D.

This article was inspired by some friends who returned from Europe, and immediately noticed how bad they felt once they started eating food at home in the U.S. again. These friends are extremely health conscious, so it wasn't an indication of food type choices, something else seemed amiss. I will leave glyphosate alone (S. Seneff as done a fine job here already), and even wheat alone, as American wheat is typically of a different variety (red wheat), is fortified with bio unavailable iron and selenium, and contains more gluten than varieties in Europe commonly used.

The first part of this article will look at 10 specific pesticides that are used in the U.S. (94 million lbs / year) but banned in the EU, Canada, or other countries, specifically we will look at: Phorate (insecticide), Paraquat (Herbicide), Terbufos (insecticide), Chlorethoxyfos (insecticide), Ethoprophos (insecticide and nematicide), Methomyl (insecticide), Propanil (herbicide), Acephate (insecticide). These 10 banned pesticides are used on : cotton, beans, potatoes, citrus fruits, wheat, corn, sugarcane, sorghum, soybeans, sugar beets, groundnuts, bananas, beans, coffee, fruits, ornamental plants, citrus trees, tobacco, and turf.

Next we will turn to a broader comparison of amount of pesticides used in the U.S. but banned in the EU through a 2106 study that found the United States used 388 million pounds of 85 different pesticides that are banned in the E.U, Brazil, or China, accounting for more than one-quarter of all agricultural pesticide use in this country. This really is not that much, its only about 1 pound for every person in this country, sigh.

And lastly a look at some food additives allowed in the U.S. but banned in the EU, and why.

Atrazine (73 million pounds/year) is used to control grasses and broadleaf weeds by inhibiting their photosynthesis on crops such as : corn, sugarcane, sorghum, wheat, turf and macadamia nuts. Its an endocrine disruptor and also causes cancer, reproductive issues, nervous and immune system disruption, and liver, kidney and heart damage.

Paraquat (11 lbs/year)is a highly poisonous herbicide used in weed and grass control on crops such as : potatoes, cotton, soybeans, and sugarcane. Its usage is 'restricted' to licensed applicators. It causes damage upon contact with the lining of the mouth, stomach and small intestines. Ingestion causes damage in the lungs, liver and kidneys. Health complications such as heart failure, kidney failure, liver failure, seizures, coma, lung scarring, and Parkinsons are the most common.

Propanil (5 million lbs/year) is a herbicide control grasses and broadleaf weeds on crops such as potatoes, rice, and wheat. Common health complications are burrning sensation, vomiting, drowsiness, nausea and confusion. Short-term exposure may also affect blood and the nervous system.

Acephate (4 million lbs/year) is a potentially carcinogenic organophosphate insecticide to control pests such as aphids, spider mites, leaf miners, caterpillars, ants and sawflies on beans, citrus trees, tobacco, ornamental plants and turf. Health symptoms such as sweating, dizziness, nausea, shaking and confusion are common.

Methomyl (636,000 lbs/year) is a toxic insecticide used to control nematodes and foliar insects, such as spiders, in the production of vegetables, apples, oranges, cotton, tobacco, turf, and ornamental plants. Some health complications from methomyl poisoning include abdominal pain, diarrhea, vomiting, weakness, chest tightness and blurry vision.

Phorate (500,000 lbs/year) is an insecticide used on potatoes, cotton, wheat, corn, beans, sugarcane, sorghum to control insects such as nematodes, white flies, grasshoppers, mites, white grubs, corn leaf aphids, wireworms, leafminers and corn rootworm. Symptoms of exposure to phorate include dizziness, blurred vision, diarrhea, low blood pressure, seizures, dyspnea and abdominal pain.

Terbufos (383,000 lbs/year) is an organophosphate insecticide and nematicide used to control corn rootworms, nematodes, white grubs, beet flies, wireworms, beetles on crops such as corn, sorghum, sugar beets, potatoes, groundnuts, bananas, beans and coffee. It causes acute cholinergic crisis, a condition that results from overstimulation of the nicotinic and muscarinic receptors. It also causes lung cancer, respiratory paralysis, leukemia, and increased aggression of cancers such as breast cancer and prostate cancer.

Ethoprophos (138,000 lbs/year) is an organophosphate insecticide and nematicide used to control nematodes, wireworms and other soil-dwelling insects on sugarcane, bananas, potatoes, nuts, fruits, and ornamental plants. Common health complications such as muscle twitching, convulsions, sweating, dizziness, headache, coma, blurred vision and sweating, with extreme exposure capable of being fatal.

Aldicarb (75,000 lbs/year) is an insecticide to control aphids, leafminers, spider mites and fleahoppers, on the production of cotton, beans, potatoes and citrus fruits. Complications for aldicarb ingestion include nausea, blurred vision, tremors and weakness, while high doses can paralyze the respiratory system causing fatality.

Chlorethoxyfos (19,000 lbs/year) is an insecticide (belonging to the organophosphate class) used to control pests such as corn rootworms, white grubs, wireworms, cutworms and seed corn maggots on corn (field corn, sweet corn, seed corn) and popcorn. Health complications include: abdominal pain, vomiting, muscle twitching, convulsions, breathing difficulties, sweating, blurred vision and neurodevelopmental harm.

United States Uses 85 Pesticides Outlawed in Other Countries

The United States allows the use of 85 pesticides that have been banned or are being phased out in the European Union, China or Brazil, according to a study published by the academic journal Environmental Health. [1] In 2016 the United States used 322 million pounds of pesticides that are banned in the E.U., accounting for more than one-quarter of all agricultural pesticide use in this country, according to the study. U.S. applicators also used 40 million pounds of pesticides that are banned or being phased out in China and 26 million pounds of pesticides that are banned or being phased out in Brazil. The study compared the approval status of more than 500 pesticides used in outdoor applications in the world’s four largest agricultural economies: the United States, European Union, China and Brazil.

Report Highlights

  • The U.S. EPA continues to allow use of 85 pesticides for outdoor agricultural applications that are banned in the E.U., Brazil or China. The United States has banned only four pesticides still approved for use in the E.U., Brazil or China.

  • Pesticides approved in the United States but banned in at least two of the three other nations in the study include: 2,4-DB, bensulide, chloropicrin, dichlobenil, dicrotophos, EPTC, norflurazon, oxytetracycline, paraquat, phorate, streptomycin, terbufos and tribufos.

  • The majority of pesticides banned in at least 2 of the 3 nations studied have not appreciably decreased in the United States over the past 25 years and almost all have stayed constant or increased over the past 10 years.

The study concludes that deficiencies in the U.S. pesticide regulatory process are the likely cause, “A combination of weak laws and the EPA’s broken pesticide regulatory process has allowed the pesticide industry to dictate which pesticides stay in use. That process undermines the safety of agricultural workers and anyone who eats food and drinks water in this country.”

The U.S. EPA’s Pesticide Office has come under intense scrutiny in recent years:

Irreversible impacts

The EU banned chlorpyrifos in 2020 after years of campaigning by health and environmental groups. Studies had found the chemical in the urine of mothers and children in multiple EU countries – even Sweden, where its use had never been authorised. This EU-wide ban “finally acknowledged the substance’s irreversible impacts for health over a lifetime” and “was an important victory for the health of children and future generations,” said Natacha Cingotti, health and chemicals lead at the Health and Environment Alliance.

Food Additives - A Broken Approval Process

The United States is unique in that it allows these eight ingredients in food products: rBGH, ractopamine, potassium bromate, brominated vegetable oil, olestra, azodicarbonamide, coloring agents (also known as Red #40, etc.), and BHA and BHT. rBGH is used in milk and yogurt. It is injected into cows to increase milk production and causes many issues in cows, but it also causes allergic reactions in humans. 

Ractopamine is used to increase lean muscle in animals, but it is known to cause heart problems in humans. Potassium bromate is used to make bread fluffier but can cause bronchitis. Brominated vegetable oil is used to keep the flavor in soda from floating to the surface, but it can cause irritation to human skin and the linings of the mouth, nose, and lungs. Olestra is a fat-free substitute but causes bloating and intestinal problems, and azodicarbonamide is used to bleach flour but can cause asthma. 

Coloring agents are used to color foods and are linked to neurological problems such as brain cancer, ADD, ADHD, and more. BHA and BHT, which are used in foods like gum and vegetable oil, can also cause cancer.

These additives are banned in Europe, but not in the U.S. Why ? Because these chemicals make American food products visually appealing, long-lasting, and more satisfying to eat. In Europe, the European Food Information Council, or EUFIC, regulates which ingredients are allowed in food products, while in America, it is the Food and Drug Administration, or FDA.  The FDA allows additives to be used in American foods until they are proven harmful. Europe, on the other hand, will only allow certain additives in food after they have been proven to be unharmful.

McDonald's Fries In the U.S. Ingredient List: Potatoes, Vegetable Oil (Canola, Corn, Soybean, Hydrogenated Soybean Oil, Natural Beef Flavor), Dextrose, Sodium Acid Pyrophosphate, Salt, Fried in a vegetable oil belnd with citric acid and Dimethylpolysiloxane.

McDonald's Fries In The U.K. (Ingredient List): Potatoes, Vegetable Oil (Sunflower, Rapeseed), dextrose, fried in non hydrogentaed vegetable oil. Salt added after cooking.

Just one example, and yes, no encouragement for this type of food in general, but the point stands. Ugh.

Its enough to make one sick just reading about it. Be careful where you get your food from and what is on and in it. More so than ever. Local CSA's / Farm's where you have knowledge how food is grown, and treated seem like a viable way to reduce risk.

If you would like to explore how to assess current levels of toxicity, your genetics associated with the detoxification pathways with these substances (mainly the PON1 and glucuronidation phase 2 pathways), or discuss strategies to limit your exposure and remove the current burden from your body, schedule an appointment on line or send me a note.

Be well, this year, and may this be helpful in giving you the needed nudge to get the crap out of our diets and bodies that compromises us.


1. The USA lags behind other agricultural nations in banning harmful pesticides. Nathan Donley Environmental Health volume 18, Article number: 44 (2019). Published: 07 June 2019


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