Understanding product labels can be a vital key to preserving your health, as studies show that various ingredients and additives used in U.S. grocery items are banned in other countries across the globe.
From cake mix to candy, many food products contain chemicals, preservatives and other additives known to cause an array of health problems.
“The U.S. food corporations are unnecessarily feeding us chemicals – while leaving out almost all questionable ingredients in our friends’ products overseas,” Vani Hari  wrote on her Food Babe  blog. “The point is the food industry has already formulated safer, better products, but they are voluntarily only selling inferior versions of these products here in America.”
Here are 6 ingredients banned in one or more countries outside the United States:
1. Potassium Bromate: Also known as bromated flour, this bread additive  reduces baking time and lowers production costs, said August McLaughlin from Livestrong.com. But the substance also is known to cause thyroid and kidney cancer in lab rats and mice. Banned in: Canada, Peru, the European Union, China, Brazil, Nigeria and South Korea.
2. Artificial colors and dyes: Processed foods ranging from gelatin to packaged crackers contain coloring agents  such as Blue #1, Blue #2, Yellow #5, Yellow #6 and Red #40, according to The Daily Meal. The health problems caused by these food additives include behavioral problems, cancer, hypersensitivity and birth defects. Banned in: Norway and Austria, among others. The European Union also includes warning labels on many of these products.
3. rBGH and rBST: Found in milk and dairy products, these synthetic growth hormones are injected into approximately one in six dairy cows  to increase milk production, said Gina Roberts-Gray from MSN Healthy Living. The hormones not only cause illnesses in cows but also are linked to breast, prostate and colorectal cancer. Banned in: Australia, New Zealand, Israel, the European Union and Canada.
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4. BHA and BHT: These preservatives, added to products such as chips, meat and cereal, extend the shelf life of products, McLaughlin said. But the preservatives also are believed to raise the chances for cancer. Banned in: Australia, New Zealand, Japan and parts of Europe.
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5. Genetically Modified Organisms: GMOs  are prevalent in the produce section at food markets, with 90 percent of corn and soybeans produced in the United States being genetically modified. Other products such as canola oil often are genetically modified, as well. Banned in: Europe and Asia, depending on the product. In Europe, canola oil is non-GMO.
6. Brominated Vegetable Oil: Used in sports drinks and citrus-flavored sodas, this substance prevents ingredients from separating, said Cristina Goyanes at Shape.com. BVO  is believed to contribute to hypothyroidism, autoimmune disease, schizophrenia and hearing loss, among other severe health problems. Banned in: Europe and Japan.
The best way to avoid these ingredients is by eating a diet of organic whole foods , said Oracle Talk. The Green Mom Guide also provides a list of food brands  and ingredient substitutions free of chemicals, pesticides and other harmful additives.
“We as a collective nation must stop this trajectory of sickness and rising health care costs by understanding the ingredients we are putting into our bodies,” Hari  said. “We must challenge the US food industry to discontinue the use of banned ingredients that are not allowed elsewhere in the world. We deserve to have the same quality food without potential toxins.”