While researching the regulations for mailing food to my international friends, I came across several articles listing common U.S. foods that were banned in other countries. To my horror, I learned how Wheat Thins had BHT on its packaging to preserve freshness, and Little Debbie Swiss Rolls had to carry a warning that it causes adverse effects in children due to having the additives Yellow 5 and Red 40 abroad.
Needless to say, my mindset shifted from finding cool foods for my friends to what foods I could send that didn’t contain additives linked to behavioral issues and cancer.
Upon further research, the amount of backlash toward these ingredients surprised me. If news stations and Ted Talks were condemning additives, why had I never been made aware of their harm? The more I thought about it, the more I realized that growing up, I had indeed been educated about our lackluster food products.
In elementary school, I watched the pink slime scandal unfold on broadcast television and saw how little the McDonald's burger my health teacher kept in a plastic bowl decomposed throughout the school year. Yet, as the years passed, so did my disgust and concern toward eating these products. Looking through the drawers in my dorm, I found items like pasta and chips that contained the petroleum-based Red 40 and Yellow 5 ingredients that I used to avoid like the plague.
In the years following me learning about the harmful ingredients in my food, I learned to ignore the label, stop stressing and accept that the food I ate was garbage, and there was little I could do about it. This is an awful mindset to have. We deserve to eat real food, not numbers and names we can’t pronounce.
The worst aspect of these harmful ingredients is they are often found in processed foods that those struggling financially cannot afford to pass on. Health should be a human right and not something to be sacrificed to save money.
What’s baffling is removing these ingredients isn’t hard and has already been done so companies can sell their products abroad. Look at Fruit Loops in the U.S. compared to other countries, and you will find Europe’s variety looks much duller due to the lack of food dyes. Sure, they don’t look as pretty, but I’d much rather eat a less appealing cereal than one with ingredients that can cause adverse effects in children.
Without anyone reminding me how bad additives are, it was easy to forget about the harm they can cause and focus on other issues. However, few things are more important than the food you eat, so this is my reminder to you to be both aware and angry at how awful our status quo is.
Charlene Pepiot is a senior studying English at Ohio University. Please note that the views and opinions of the columnists do not reflect those of The Post. Want to talk more about it? Let Charlene know by emailing her, firstname.lastname@example.org.