Americans may like to think theyre ahead of the curve on many things, but when it comes to the health and safety of food, much of the products on American store shelves are deemed unworthy of human consumption in other countries. A deeper look may explain part of the reason behind the United States obesity epidemic and increasing numbers of sick individuals.

Here are eight foods banned in other countries but available in the US.

Something Fishy Farmed salmon is often larger, has a brighter color and may look more appealing to the eye, but to the body it introduces synthetic chemicals and toxicities. Farmed fish is raised on grains that are often genetically modified and are given antibiotics and other chemicals. All of this leaves the fish dull and unappetizing. As a way to encourage consumers to buy it, the fish are then fed synthetic supplements that are deemed potentially dangerous to humans. In Australia and New Zealand, these farm-fed fish are banned.

Make sure youre eating healthier fish by choosing Alaskan salmon or sockeye salmon, neither of which is allowed to be farm-raised. Look for salmon that is red not pink, and that has thinner white stripes.

Papaya Pointers You wont find genetically engineered papaya in the European Union. Its banned there, but in the United States its widely available. Much of the papaya from Hawaii is genetically modified to resist ringspot virus. Genetically engineered fruits have been the cause of much controversy, primarily because its long-term impact remains unknown. Animal studies, though, suggest they could lead to illnesses ranging from intestinal upset to tumors. If you want to avoid GE Papaya, stick with organic.

Flame Retardant Sports Drinks Sports drinks and some citrus-flavored sodas are made with brominated vegetable oil (BVO). BVO was originally developed by chemical companies as a flame retardant. These days its used in some drinks as an emulsifier. But while its keeping the ingredients in your drink from separating, it could also cause reproductive and behavioral problems as well as causing iodine deficiency. You wont find BVO in drinks in Europe or Japan. The best way for you to avoid it is to stop drinking sodas and replace it with water.

Food Coloring In the United States, more than 3,000 additives are put into foods to enhance the coloring and flavoring. These food dyes and colors are banned in Norway and Austria, and a ban is looming in Britain. The European Union requires warnings be put on foods containing dyes and artificial colors. But, in the US they can be found in just about every category of processed foods, especially those targeted to infants and kids. These may be visually appealing but they have also been connected to behavioral problems, birth defects and other health concerns. Read your labels and if the list of ingredients includes colors, its time to find something natural instead.

Arsenic in Chicken Much of the chicken available in stores in the United States is fed feed with arsenic in it to make the animals grow more quickly and appear healthier. The FDA says its ok because its organic arsenic, which they contend is less toxic than the non-organic version a known carcinogen. But studies now show even the so-called healthier arsenic takes on the properties of inorganic arsenic when it sits on shelves. These additives are banned in the European Union and some US companies have stopped marketing arsenic-based feed additives. But its also yet another reason to follow a vegetarian diet instead of risking ingesting this dangerous substance.

Bread with Potassium Bromate Potassium bromide, banned in Canada, China and the European Union, is found in much of the bread consumed in the United States. Bromide that is used in flour has been linked to kidney and nervous system damage, thyroid problems, cancer and gastrointestinal disorders. Its also believed to be a carcinogen. Some companies have found a way to use flour thats free from bromide. Check your labels next time you pick up a loaf of bread to make sure your flour is not enriched with bromide.

BHA and BHT Butylated hydroxyanisole and butylated hydroxytoluene are banned in parts of the EU and Japan and are not allowed in infant food in the UK, but in the US theyre found in a wide variety of processed foods. The chemicals keep food shelf stable but also have been closely linked to cancer. Eat fresh foods and you wont have to worry about dangerous chemicals like these.

Bovine Growth Hormones in Milk Recombinant bovine growth hormone is given to cows to increase milk production, but theres a reason this hormone thats so widely used in the US is banned in at least 30 other countries. rBGH is thought to increase a humans risk of cancer. The FDA maintains its safe in the levels its found in milk, but you can take control of your health by looking for products labeled as rBGH-free.