Food regulations in crisis: How the U.S. compares to Europe



Gas station mac and cheese filled with food additives for flavor, color, preservability, etc.

Ike Swanson, Business Manager

With a high rate of heart disease and obesity,  it is no secret that the United States’ affordable food options are not the healthiest, however it is not common knowledge as to what extent these foods affect consumers negatively.

When it comes to food regulations, the United States is definitely seen as lenient, with many types of chemicals being regulated for use. A CBS article states that there are a range of chemicals and substances that are banned in Europe due to health concerns that are still permitted in the United States.

This lack of banned chemicals in substances in the US is largely due to the reactive approach the FDA takes compared to the proactive approach used in Europe. The standard in Europe is for additives to be tested and proven unharmful before they can be used in food production. 

However, in the US, the process is handled differently.. The FDA allows additives unless they are proven to be harmful. This stirs a lot of controversy over what should and shouldn’t be available for consumption. 

After hearing about the United States approach to food regulations, senior Sam Brown had some words of advice. “I think that the US should definitely tighten its food regulations as food is one of the most important resources in our lives,” he says. “I don’t think that there should be any gray area in keeping our food safe and preventing it from harming us.”

But should the FDA and the United States be the ones to blame entirely? Pleasant Valley Health teacher, Eric Royer, believes they shouldn’t take all the blame. He says that when going to the grocery store, the products with unhealthy additives are the ones that are “readily available.” 

Royer himself has adopted a more healthy diet consisting of less unnecessary fats and oils. He also noticed when shopping that, “You have to search for the nutrition stuff.” 

It is hard for the consumers to understand what is and what is not good for them. This is largely due to lack of transparency from producers. Many consumers don’t know that what they are buying is bad because it is hidden by some complex ingredient name in fine print.  

“I think the manufacturers should be required to make sure they inform the consumer this is in our product and this could potentially cause this,” says Royer. “They want to hide that information.” Producers are able to hide this with its long ingredient list of complex names that consumers would have to Google in order to understand its safety.

The only thing consumers can do at this point is be mindful of the products they are buying and understand that the better tasting processed alternative might not always be the best option.