Unveiling the Forbidden: Foods that are Allowed in the U.S. but Banned by the E.U.

We all know that the U.S. and the E.U. have some distinct differences in their food regulations, but did you know that a number of foods that are legal in the U.S. are actually banned by the E.U.? That’s right, there are plenty of items in your diet that you might not even realize are not allowed overseas. It’s high time you become aware of what they are and why the E.U. has banned them. In this blog post, we will unveil the foods that are allowed in the U.S. but banned by the E.U., and why they’re deemed too unhealthy to consume.

Banned in the E.U.

1. Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs)
The majority of the U.S. food supply reportedly consists of genetically modified ingredients. E.U. regulations exceptionally and firmly restrict the use of GMOs in food. Member countries have the option of imposing even tighter restrictions that could result in the outright ban of genetically modified crops or products containing them. There are many concerns among the E.U. regulatory authorities and consumers around the safety of GMOs. GMOs are banned by the E.U. as they could seriously affect both human health and the wider environment.

2. Food Additives and Preservatives:
The EU has stricter regulations on food additives and preservatives compared to the United States. Some additives that are allowed in certain foods in the U.S. may be banned or have more stringent restrictions in the EU due to concerns about their potential health effects.
[Read: Poison in Your Shopping Cart: How to Make Safer Food Choices]

3. Raw Oysters:
The treatment and sale of raw oysters can have varying regulations. The EU requires strict controls on the treatment of oysters to reduce the risk of contamination and foodborne illnesses, while the U.S. has different approaches and regulations for ensuring oyster safety.

4. American Beef
One of the most significant differences between the U.S. and the EU has to do with meat production. The U.S. allows farmers to use various hormones in beef production, whereas the EU prohibits it. This is because studies have linked hormone-treated beef to negative health effects, such as an increased risk of cancer. The EU prioritizes consumer safety, whereas the U.S. prioritizes economic gain.

5. Pork
Ractopamine is reportedly found in pig feed, where it is used to improve meat quality and make the animal grow faster. It is legal for use in the U.S. meat industry as a feed additive despite some evidence linking it to heart problems and weight gain. But the E.U. has prohibited its use due to doubts about its long-term safety and animal welfare aspects.

6. American Chicken
In the U.S., farmers reportedly wash their chickens with chlorine to kill off any harmful bacteria. The E.U. prohibits the import of chickens treated in this way due to various welfare and health concerns. Among the severe issues, the amount of antibiotics used in U.S. farming practice triggers concerns about creating antibiotic-resistant strains of bacteria.

7. Pesticides
In the U.S., pesticide use is prevalent, and farmers are allowed to use multiple different types of chemicals. In contrast, the EU has much stricter regulations on pesticide use and often bans pesticides that are allowed in the U.S. The EU has found pesticides like atrazine or glyphosate, which have been widely used in the U.S., to be harmful to the environment and human health, specifically the reproductive system.

8. Artificial colors
Artificial colors are widely used in processed foods in the U.S., but many of these colors are banned in the EU. The artificial colors found in popular American snacks such as mac & cheese, breakfast cereals, and candies, have been linked to potential links to cancer as well as behavior problems in children and hypersensitivity in adults. However, these additives are still widely available in the U.S. market. Two examples are Red 40, and Yellow No. 5 (Tartrazine) commonly used in packaged foods, which has been linked to hyperactivity, anxiety, and migraines, particularly in children.
[Read: RedAlert: Popular Candies that are Causing Cancer | Uncovering the Consequences of Red-40]

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foods banned in Europe but not America

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9. Brominated vegetable oil
Brominated vegetable oil is used in some popular soft drinks and is banned in the EU. This compound’s critical role is to stabilize the flavoring and help keep the drink’s ingredients form separating. Use of brominated vegetable oil has been linked to headaches, fatigue, and symptoms of impaired memory and coordination.

10. Azodicarbonamide
Azodicarbonamide is a common additive in U.S. bread, cake, and pastry recipes. It is used for texture and is known for its ability to bleach flour. E.U. countries have banned the use of this chemical additive in food as azodicarbonamide gives off semi-toxic byproducts. In addition, when cooked at high temperatures, it releases allergenic proteins that can trigger severe asthma attacks.

11. Artificial Growth Promoters in Animal Feed:
The use of certain growth-promoting substances and antibiotics in animal feed is more restricted in the EU than in the United States. The EU has taken a precautionary approach, limiting the use of certain additives to address concerns about antibiotic resistance and consumer safety.

12. Artificial Sweeteners
Artificial sweeteners such as aspartame and saccharin are legal in the U.S. but banned in some E.U. countries. These sweeteners have been linked to health issues such as cancer and obesity. Although the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) have approved artificial sweeteners as safe for consumption, some E.U. countries, including France and Italy, have implemented their own bans.

13. Food Irradiation:
Food irradiation, a process that uses ionizing radiation to kill bacteria and pests in food, is approved for certain foods in the United States. However, the EU has more stringent regulations and generally restricts the use of food irradiation, allowing it only for specific purposes such as preventing the spread of pests and diseases in certain fruits.

14. Raw Milk Cheese:
The production and sale of raw milk cheese, i.e., cheese made from unpasteurized milk, have different regulations in the U.S. and the EU. While raw milk cheese is permitted in both regions, the EU has specific guidelines and standards regarding the production, aging, and labeling of these cheeses.

15. Artificial Trans Fats:
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has implemented regulations to phase out artificial trans fats from the food supply due to their negative impact on cardiovascular health. In the EU, limits on trans fats in food products vary by country, but there are no specific EU-wide regulations to ban them.

16. Bisphenol A (BPA) in Food Packaging:
BPA is a chemical used in some food and beverage containers. The EU has banned the use of BPA in baby bottles and implemented restrictions on its use in other food contact materials. The U.S. FDA has not banned BPA, but it has taken steps to reduce exposure and continues to evaluate the safety of this chemical.

17. Fortified Foods:
The U.S. and the EU may have different regulations regarding the fortification of foods with vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients. Allowed fortification levels and permitted additives in fortified foods can vary between the two regions.

18. Artificial Flavorings:
The use of certain artificial flavorings may differ between the U.S. and the EU. Some flavorings that are approved for use in the U.S. food supply may have more limited use or be banned in the EU due to safety concerns or differences in regulatory standards.

19. BHA, BHT, and TBHQ
These food preservatives are banned in the E.U. due to their adverse effects on human health. BHA and BHT have been linked to cancer and are also suspected to cause liver and kidney damage, while TBHQ is associated with reproductive and developmental issues. Even with all these dangers, these preservatives remain fairly widespread in the American food industry.

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foods banned in Europe but not America

EU Regulation Differences

There are notable differences between the food regulations of the European Union (EU) and the United States. One key distinction lies in the precautionary principle, which the EU follows. It means that if there are reasonable grounds to believe a product may be harmful, even in the absence of conclusive scientific evidence, protective measures can be taken. In contrast, the U.S. tends to rely more on risk assessment and requires stronger scientific evidence before implementing regulatory measures. Additionally, the EU has stricter regulations on genetically modified organisms (GMOs), with mandatory labeling for genetically modified ingredients, while the U.S. has voluntary labeling. The EU also imposes more stringent limits on pesticide residues, has more comprehensive food additive regulations, and restricts antibiotic use in animal agriculture to a greater extent. Furthermore, the EU has standardized food labeling requirements, including allergen labeling, country of origin, and nutritional information, whereas the U.S. has less standardized regulations in these areas. It is important to understand these differences to navigate the regulatory landscapes of both regions effectively.

foods banned in Europe but not America

Food Labelling

When it comes to food labeling regulations, the EU and the US have some similarities and differences. In the EU, labeling requirements are strict and comprehensive, with a focus on transparency and providing consumers with accurate and comprehensive information.

Allergen labeling is mandatory, and ingredients must be listed in descending order by weight. The US also mandates allergen labeling and requires nutritional information to be included, but the rules are less stringent and don’t provide as much detail.

For example, in the EU, “vegetable oil” must specify what type of oil is used, whereas in the US, this detail is not required. These differences in regulations can lead to confusion and frustration, particularly for consumers with dietary restrictions or food allergies. Ultimately, it’s important for both EU and US food labeling regulations to prioritize transparency and accuracy for the safety and well-being of consumers.

One notable difference between the regulations in the United States and the European Union is the mandatory labeling of genetically modified (GM) food products in the EU. This includes labeling of any ingredients derived from GM crops. In contrast, the US has voluntary labeling for GM foods, meaning that manufacturers can choose whether or not to disclose the presence of GM ingredients on their product’s labeling. It’s important for consumers to pay attention to the labels on their food products and research any unfamiliar terms or symbols. Understanding the differences in food labeling regulations can help consumers make informed decisions about the food they put in their bodies.


Novel Foods

Novel foods refer to food ingredients or products that were not commonly consumed before May 1997 in the EU. The regulations governing novel foods differ between the U.S. and the EU, and certain foods or ingredients that are considered novel in one region may not be in the other.

According to the European Union (EU), novel foods are defined as food products or ingredients that were not commonly consumed in the EU before May 15, 1997. Novel foods include newly developed food products, innovative ingredients, or foods produced using new technologies or processes.

The EU Novel Food Regulation (Regulation (EU) 2015/2283) provides a regulatory framework for the authorization and safety assessment of novel foods before they can be placed on the EU market. The regulation aims to ensure the safety of novel foods for consumer consumption while promoting innovation and providing a level playing field for businesses.

Under the EU Novel Food Regulation, any food or ingredient that falls within the definition of a novel food must undergo a safety assessment by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) or the competent authorities of the member states. The assessment considers factors such as the composition, production process, nutritional profile, potential allergenicity, and safety of the novel food.

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Once a novel food is authorized, it can be placed on the EU market and sold as a food or used as an ingredient in other food products. Novel foods are subject to specific labeling requirements to inform consumers about the novelty of the food or ingredient.

The EU Novel Food Regulation aims to ensure that novel foods are safe for consumption, that appropriate labeling is provided, and that consumers are protected. It provides a framework for assessing and managing the introduction of innovative food products and ingredients into the European market.


Here are a few examples of novel foods that have received authorization or are currently being evaluated under the EU Novel Food Regulation:

1. Insects:
Certain insect species, such as mealworms (Tenebrio molitor) and crickets (Acheta domesticus), have been authorized as novel foods in the EU. They can be used as ingredients in various food products, such as protein bars, snacks, and baked goods.


2. Novel Plant Ingredients:
Ingredients derived from certain plants that were not commonly consumed in the EU before 1997 have undergone novel food authorization. For example, chia seeds (Salvia hispanica), baobab fruit powder (Adansonia spp.), and Moringa oleifera leaf powder have received approval as novel foods.


3. Traditional Foods from Third Countries:
Foods that have a history of safe consumption outside the EU but were not traditionally consumed within the EU before 1997 can also fall under the category of novel foods. Examples include chia seeds (Salvia hispanica) from South America and noni fruit (Morinda citrifolia) from the Pacific Islands.


4. Novel Extracts and Oils:
Extracts or oils derived from novel sources have also undergone safety evaluations. For instance, krill oil extracted from Antarctic krill (Euphausia superba) and oil from the algae species Schizochytrium sp. are authorized as novel foods.


5. Novel Food Ingredients Produced by New Technologies:
Some novel foods are created using innovative technologies. For instance, food ingredients produced through the cultivation of microorganisms, such as algae, bacteria, or fungi, can fall under the category of novel foods.

It’s important to note that the list of authorized novel foods is continuously evolving as new applications are assessed and approved. The authorization process ensures that these novel foods meet safety requirements and provides consumers with clear information through appropriate labeling.


Food Labelling Regulations

When it comes to food labeling regulations, the EU and the US have some similarities and differences. In the EU, labeling requirements are strict and comprehensive, with a focus on transparency and providing consumers with accurate and comprehensive information. These differences in regulations can lead to confusion and frustration, particularly for consumers with dietary restrictions or food allergies. Ultimately, it’s important for both EU and US food labeling regulations to prioritize transparency and accuracy for the safety and well-being of consumers.

Organic Standards:
The regulations governing organic food production and labeling may differ between the U.S. and the EU. While both regions have standards for organic certification, the specific requirements and processes for organic farming, processing, and labeling can vary.

Food Contact Materials:
Regulations regarding food contact materials, such as packaging, may have differences between the U.S. and the EU. Standards for materials that come into contact with food, including plastics, coatings, and packaging materials, may have varying levels of permissible substances and migration limits.

Food Additives Derived from Animals:
Regulations surrounding the use of food additives derived from animals can differ between the U.S. and the EU. Examples include cochineal extract (derived from insects) and gelatin (derived from animal collagen). The EU may have stricter regulations or labeling requirements for these additives.


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