US Foods That Are Banned in Other Countries

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It’s no secret that the U.S. doesn’t exactly have a reputation for healthy eating. In this country, most of us eat too much processed food, which often contains excess sodium, trans fats and calories. Our poor diets are a major reason the leading causes of death in the country are all lifestyle diseases like diabetes, heart disease and cancer.

For decades, we’ve been convinced these issues all came down to personal accountability. If you’re overweight, if you suffer from diabetes, if you fall victim to heart disease at an early age, you’re just lazy, gluttonous, irresponsible with your health. But that point of view doesn’t account for the lack of food regulation in the United States. There are a slew of chemicals and additives found in the U.S. food supply that are banned in other parts of the world because they’re believed to cause health issues. The lack of regulation in this country is often a result of lobbying by food corporations who prioritize profits over actually making healthy, nourishing food. People in some other countries in the world are healthier not necessarily because of the personal choices they make but because their governments actually attempt to write regulations in the best interests of their citizens.

The following are some of the foods that are legal in the U.S. but have been banned by other countries.


Gatorade is a common sports drink in the U.S., but in Europe and Japan, it’s banned. In 2012, the European Union banned one ingredient that was once found in Gatorade called brominated vegetable oil, also known as BVO. Gatorade tweaked the recipe to exclude BVO, but Gatorade is still banned in some parts of Europe due to the drink company’s use of artificial dyes.

Farm-Raised Salmon

Farmed salmon in the U.S. contains a compound called astaxanthin, which is used to create that bright pink color that gives salmon its signature color and appearance. However, there haven’t been enough long-term studies on the ingredient to know what effects it might have on the human body over time. Australia and New Zealand have banned fish containing this chemical.

Wheat Thins

Wheat Thins may be a popular snack in the U.S., but you’re not going to find them in the UK, parts of Europe or Japan. That’s because they contain a chemical called BHT, which is short for butylated hydroxytoluene. There’s some evidence that the chemical may be a carcinogen, so other countries have decided it’s best not to allow it in their food products.

Little Debbie Swiss Rolls

Little Debbie Swiss Rolls aren’t exactly a gourmet dessert, but they have their appeal when you have an intense sweets craving. But in Norway and Austria, you won’t find them at all. They were originally banned because they contain certain dyes that are prohibited in the European Union, but these two countries just banned them entirely.

Coffee Mate Creamer

Making sweetened coffee drinks at home is way easier when you use a product like Coffee Mate Creamer, but in other parts of the world, it’s not an option. Some countries in Europe have banned the product due to its high levels of trans fats, which raise bad cholesterol. You’re probably better off just using standard cream and sugar.

Ritz Crackers

Ritz Crackers fit into the same category as Coffee Mate. Because of their high levels of trans fats, they’ve been banned in some European countries. Considering there’s evidence that eating too much trans fat can lead to health conditions like heart disease, it makes sense that governments would aim to limit how much of it ends up in our food supply.

Frosted Flakes

Remember BHT, the banned component in Wheat Thins? It’s in Frosted Flakes too, where it serves as a preservative. That means that Frosted Flakes are also banned in Europe and Japan. Somehow, I think the kids survive just fine without Tony the Tiger.

Maraschino Cherries

Maraschino cherries are those bright red cherries that often appear atop banana splits, but they’re not widely eaten around the world. They contain red 40, a dye that’s banned in places like the UK and Switzerland. Some people suffer from allergic reactions when they eat the dye, which is why some countries have decided that it’s just not worth the risk.

Mountain Dew

Mountain Dew legitimately looks poisonous, so it doesn’t surprise me at all that it’s banned in other countries. Countries like Japan have decided to ban Mountain Dew because it’s made with an ingredient called BVO, or brominated vegetable oil. BVO contains bromine, which is a natural element that can nonetheless be hazardous to humans in large quantities. Delicious! Don’t you want to chug a Mountain Dew now?


Another neon food product, banned in other countries! Who would’ve thought? Norway and Sweden have banned the product because it contains dyes like yellow 5 and yellow 6. If these countries can survive without artificial, fruit-flavored, plastic-y candies, we might just be able to as well.

Samantha Maxwell is a food writer and editor based in Boston. Follow her on Twitter at @samseating.