Banned in Boston” was a phrase employed from the late 19th century through the mid-20th century to describe a literary work, motion picture, or play prohibited from distribution or exhibition in Boston, Massachusetts. During this period, Boston officials had wide authority to ban works featuring “objectionable” content.
Today’s post pertains not to plays, literature, or film, but FOOD! Dr. Jayson Calton’s new book “Rich Food, Poor Food” gives a new meaning to the term FOOD POISONING. The following 8 items were on the original list in this book of ‘banned’ foods in other countries, that still have the green light in the United States.
1. Artificial Food Dyes (adds pretty colors while inhibiting nerve cell development). Found in mixes, drinks, candy, mac & cheese, and just about everything. Most dyes are derived from chemicals found in petroleum, which also makes gasoline, diesel fuel, asphalt, and tar. Artificial dyes have been linked to brain cancer, nerve-cell deteriation, and hyperactivity. These are BANNED in Norway, Finland, Austria, France, and the United Kingdom.
2. Olestra (a/k/a Olean) (lowers calorie counts, but causes vitamin depletion). Found in fat-free chips and fries. Created by Proctor & Gamble to substitute for cooking oil, Olestra is reported to rob the body of the ability to absorb vitamins. Side effects can be cramps and bowel problems. It is banned in the United Kingdom and Canada. It is even written up in “50 Worst Inventions” by Time Magazine.
3. Brominated Vegetable Oil (Helps food dyes to stick, but may cause birth defects and organ damage). This ingredient is frequently found in sports drinks and citrus flavored beverages (such as Mountain Dew). Bromine is a chemical that was commonly used to make carpeting flame-retardant, which makes one pause at the idea of ingesting it! Brominated Vegetable Oil (BVO) has been linked to major organ system damage, birth defects, growth problems, schizophrenia, and hearing loss. It is banned in OVER 100 COUNTRIES! Check out Web MD’s Q&A on this oil.
4. Potassium Bromate / Brominated Flour (Speeds up baking time, but can be bad for your kidneys). This is found in breads, rolls, wraps, bagel chips, and flat breads. Similar to the chemical in Brominated Vegetable oil, Brominated Flour decreases baking time and thereby reduces costs. However, it is banned in Europe, Canada, and China because it is linked to kidney damage, cancer, and nervous system damage. You can read more about it on “Live Science.”
5. Azodicarbonamide (Bleaches flour, but induces asthma). This gem can be found in frozen dinners, boxed pasta mixes, and packaged baked goods. Ironically (and rather disturbingly) this same chemical is used to bleach flour, while also bleaching PLASTIC FOAM (such as yoga mats, and sneaker soles). Azodicarbonamide is known to induce asthma in sensitive individuals. It is already banned in Austrailia, the United Kingdom, and most European countries.
6. BHA/BHT (Preservatives linked to cancer tumors). Found in cereal, mixed nuts, gum, butter, meat, and dehydrated potatoes, BHA & BHT are used to keep food from becoming rancid, but have also been shown to cause cancer in rats. Are we next? This substance is currently banned in England, Japan, and many other European Countries. Berkley Wellness lists these preservatives in their ‘two preservatives to avoid’ article.
7. Synthetic Growth Hormones (Increase profit, but linked to tumor development in humans). Commonly found in milk and dairy products, synthetic growth hormones rBGH and rBST potentially cause infertility, weakened muscle growth, and a wide array of cancers in both cows and humans. It is currently banned in Australia, New Zealand, Canada, the European Union, and Japan. The American Cancer Society has more information on these hormones on their website.
8. Arsenic (Simply put, it slowly kills you!) Think back to the classic play, “Arsenic and Old Lace” or the storylines about the ‘almost undetectable’ arsenic poisioning on TV crime shows, and just about everyone knows that Arsenic can kill you. However, it is still used in chicken feed to make the meat appear pink and fresh. And if it’s FED to the chickens, it is potentially being being fed to YOU in the poultry you eat. It’s banned in the European Union, but not yet in the USA!
In the ‘old days,’ the term “Banned in Boston” would elicit laughs from other cities and states who were more liberal in their thinking than Puritanical Boston (who banned works of Hemmingway, Faulkner, Whitman, and countless other authors, and even the song “Wake up Little Susie” by the Everly Brothers in 1957 made the ‘no’ list there!) Through the years Boston became more liberal in the literary sense, and while they became less concerned with our minds in terms of what we saw, heard or read, they also have joined the rest of the US in being very liberal on what we can put into our bodies, even though Boston is known as a medical ‘go to’ for places like Mass General Hospital, Joslin Diabetes Center, Mass Eye & Ear, Childrens Hospital, and Dana Farber Cancer Institute.
Boston, however, HAS passed a regulation to restrict foods containing artificial trans fat. In the regulation it states that “heart disease is a leading cause of death in the United States…that research concludes that there is no safe level of artificial trans fat consumption…that there is a clear association between an increase in the intake of trans fat and the risk of heart disease…the major source of artificial trans fat is found in partially hydrogenated vegetable oil used for frying and baking and present in many processed foods…and that there are food service establishments and other food vendors in the City that prepare and serve food containing artificial trans fat for consumption by Boston visitors, residents, and students.” Hence, “The Boston Public Health Commission enacts the following regulation in furtherance of its mission to protect, promote, and preserve the health and well-being for the citizens of Boston.”
Therefore, in Boston, “NO food service establishment, vending machine, or mobile food vendor shall store, prepare, distribute, hold for service, or serve any food or beverage containing any artificial trans fat in the City of Boston.” But of course, “These prohibitions shall not include the sale of any food or beverage containing artificial trans fat that is in a manufacturer’s original sealed package and is required by federal or state law to have nutrition labeling.” So, if you want your margerine, partially hydrogenated vegetable oil, or vegetable shortning, you CAN get it on Boston store shelves, but it is not not cooked with by a restaurant, cafeteria, street vendor, etc. One step forward, two steps back? “Banned in Boston” was flawed in the 18th/19th century, and in some ways apparently has not improved in the level playing field of ‘protecting’ its citizens (and YES I live in Massachusetts).
But, although the 8 items on this “banned in other countries” list are not Banned in Boston, they are clearly not banned ANYWHERE in the United States. It’s up to you to decide…will they be banned in YOUR kitchen? They are in mine!