UK vs USA – A Noticeable Difference in Food Standards

When I last travelled back to the states, I was super excited by the lull of shopping again at Trader Joe’s. I went there and bought two large bundles of organic strawberries and blueberries, respectively. I had not realised how accustomed to British portions I had become until I realised after my excitement that there was no way I could finish them within a few days before they went bad. 

…. except they didn’t go bad at all. They didn’t go bad for over a week. Even then, there was no traces of mould. Yikes. 

Let me explain: when you buy organic berries in England, they don’t last more than a few days. This can be irritating for some, but it conveys to me that they are fresh and truly organic. It’s the reason why they are very seasonal. There are quite a few times where we go to the market and don’t find items. For example, there are times when desiree potatoes are not available. In that time, a suitable potato like maris piper is substituted until it comes back. A more recent example is how spinach and courgettes (zucchini) are not on most supermarket shelves at the moment. However, this is due to the floods in Spain ruining most of the crops, and is considered an extreme case.

Taking a deeper look, I noticed that many US food companies were not allowed to sell foods approved in the US unless the ingredients were improved. For example, I’m sure you’ve heard about the time when Subway bread had “yoga mat” in it. Subway’s bread had unsafe chemicals and had to be recreated to fit accepted standards. The chemical in the 9-grain bread was called azodicarbonamide. Usually found in plastics, the company claimed that it increased bread elasticity. It’s banned in U.K., Europe, and Australia. 

Azodicarbonamide so bad that if found using it in Singapore, you can get up to 15 years in prison and be fined $450,000. Yet Subway was serving it up to Americans with its famous “$5 foot longs” and will full approval of the FDA. Due to backlash, they claimed to be in the process of phasing it out. There are over 50 ingredients in Subway’s 9-grain bread. Keep in mind that bread only requires 4. 

Mind boggling. Where you at, FDA? Or does this get filed underneath “alternative facts?” Hmm…

I’ve even seen on the side of McDonald’s produce trucks that all produce are locally (read: British) sourced. I can honestly say the burgers taste better in England than in America. Did you also know they serve organic milk in the kids meal, and the food doesn’t have TBHQ on it? TBHQ is used as a cheap food preserver. It’s also found in silly putty. The fries also have dimethylpolysiloxane, which was also used for breast implant fillers, but was discarded because of its level of toxicity. Let that sink in. You’re ingesting silly putty and breast implant filler. Even if you decide to skip the fries and go for a shake, the sugar content in US milkshakes are much higher than the UK ones. 

We can’t forget to address phthalates which are known for messing up hormones. It can cause asthma, ADHD, breast cancer, and even fertility issues in men. It’s a huge glass of chemicals which are found in everything (literally, everything), but companies are not required to state exposure. The chemical companies seem to refute this, but scientists have stated that there is no healthy amount that a human should be exposed to. If you have bottled milk, there’s a good chance that it’s leached into your milk. The issue with fast-food is that it’s found heavily in meat and bread, and the chemicals leach via packaging and the plastic items used for processing on the conveyer belt. 

So what I wonder is, if McDonald’s and Subway can cook their food without these chemicals all this in the U.K., why can’t they do this in the USA? What is the FDA doing? Sleeping on the job, or getting paid to look the other way? Millions of Americans are ingesting this and its gross. 

Why are FDA standards so lax? So many people pay hundreds of dollars for organic at Wholefoods, but is that even truly organic? Are we not able to trust the food unless we have grown it ourselves?  It’s a very overwhelming feeling. I am sure there are plenty of other food issues at hand just lurking beneath the surface. The FDA won’t change much without a fuss – I mean, who does? If this plays close to your heart and you want to make a real change, I’d suggest calling and writing them, starting a petition online, and even ultimately organising full scale events to grab their attention. The phasing out of “yoga mat bread” started with an online petition, so it’s definitely possible.

Overall, it seems that food quality is better in the UK, but it’s more expensive for smaller portions. USA is cheaper and sell larger amounts, but lack of quality is concerning. I’m glad I don’t need to worry so much about it in the UK, but even then, there are some red flags that pop up. Kind of like the huge non-organic strawberries I bought from Tesco from supplier Rosedene Farms the other day. The biggest strawberry (not pictured) was almost as big as my palm. It had me surprised and later on concerned, thinking “hey, what are they feeding this stuff?!”

 {note: I use a delivery service, so I usually don’t pick the produce myself}


Something there just ain’t right, bud.

Definitely some food for thought. While I definitely don’t eat 100% healthy or organic, it helps to have all this information on hand to make better decisions for my family. I hope this post serves to arm you with information to help make more informed decisions about food in your life.
Xoxo!