The Role of The Sugar Cartels: EU’s Higher Food Safety Standards Surpasses North America

When it comes to prioritizing healthy consumer foods, Europe stands out with its stringent standards and regulations, particularly in comparison to North America and, more specifically, the United States. The foods found on the shelves of North American grocery stores are often banned in Europe due to their high sugar content and the presence of chemical compounds. Many of these products contain petroleum by-products, artificial colouring, and sweeteners. The discrepancy arises primarily because these ingredients are cheaper to produce, while Europeans emphasize healthier options and are willing to invest more in them. Furthermore, the powerful influence of lobbying in North America perpetuates the acceptance of these harmful products, as sugar lobbyists, often referred to as the Sugar Cartel, yield immense power, comparable to, if not surpassing, that of the influential National Rifle Association (NRA).

Their industry’s ubiquitous name, the “Sugar Cartel,” fits according to many groups that have taken on big sugar and lost it in the legal system. The term “cartel” refers to an association of businesses or organizations that collude to control market prices and suppress competition. In the case of the sugar industry, it refers to their concerted efforts to protect their interests and maintain their dominance in the market.

The sugar industry’s lobbying power can be attributed to various factors. Firstly, the industry has a long-standing history and deep-rooted connections with influential politicians. These relationships allow them to access decision-makers and shape policies in their favour. Additionally, the sugar lobby is known for its substantial financial contributions to political campaigns, allowing them to gain influence and secure support from lawmakers sympathetic to their cause.

The Sugar Cartel’s lobbying efforts aim to protect the industry’s interests, including maintaining subsidies and tariffs that ensure favourable market conditions for domestic sugar producers. These measures restrict competition from foreign sugar producers and artificially inflate sugar prices, providing significant economic advantages for American sugar companies.

The impact of lobbying cannot be underestimated. It wields substantial power in shaping legislation and policy decisions; the food industry is no exception. Lobbying has contributed to the stark contrast in food standards between Europe and North America. Let’s delve into some specific examples of foods banned in Europe due to their contents but are acceptable in North America.

One such example is Coca-Cola, a ubiquitous beverage around the globe. In America, Coca-Cola is sweetened with genetically modified organism (GMO) high fructose corn syrup, whereas in Europe, it is sweetened with cane sugar. This stark difference arises from Europe’s stricter regulations on GMO ingredients and a preference for natural sweeteners.

Then there are the beloved Mcdonald’s french fries, which have notable differences in the ingredients used in McDonald’s in America and the UK. In the United States, McDonald’s fries contain a combination of ingredients: potatoes, vegetable oil, dextrose (a type of sugar), and a preservative called sodium acid pyrophosphate. However, in the UK, McDonald’s fries are made with potatoes, vegetable oil, and dextrose, omitting sodium acid pyrophosphate. This difference reflects varying regulations and ingredient preferences between the two countries, highlighting how multinational fast-food chains may adapt their recipes to meet government standards and consumer demands.

Even seemingly healthy options like cereals can contain harmful substances. In North America, many cereals, including those marketed as healthy choices, contain butylated hydroxytoluene (BHT). It has been associated with several reported health harms. Studies suggest BHT may have carcinogenic properties and can contribute to cancer development, particularly in the liver and lungs. Furthermore, BHT has been linked to adverse effects on the endocrine system, potentially disrupting hormone balance. It has also been associated with some individuals’ allergic reactions and skin irritations. While more research is needed to understand the extent of these health harms fully, these reported associations raise concerns about the safety of BHT as a food additive.

Why do companies put profits before health, knowing they can influence laws by donating to politicians? The complex interplay between corporate interests and public health priorities is the answer. Profit margins drive companies, and using cheaper ingredients and additives increases profitability. Lobbying allows corporations to shape legislation and regulations in their favour, often at the expense of public health.

The consequences of this emphasis on profit over health are strikingly evident in North America. The region boasts one of the highest rates of obesity and diabetes worldwide. The prevalence of sugary products marketed toward children exacerbates this issue, with long-term health consequences for future generations.

2010 Health Canada approved adding a controlled amount of caffeine to cola sodas, exemplifying another successful lobbying attempt. Despite concerns about caffeine addiction and its potential health risks, the decision was made based on the assertion that the level of caffeine posed no significant harm. Curiously, many citrus drinks in Canada, such as ginger ale and 7-Up, do not contain caffeine, raising the question of why cola drinks, if not addictive, require caffeine.

It is high time North America adopted a more European approach to healthy foods. Europe’s stricter regulations, banning harmful ingredients and additives, serve as a model for prioritizing public health over corporate interests. By implementing similar standards, North America could significantly mitigate the obesity and diabetes epidemic plaguing the region.

Emphasizing healthy consumer foods is a pressing concern that warrants attention and action. The stark contrast between European and North American standards highlights the need for stricter regulations and a shift in priorities. Lobbying, often driven by corporate interests, influences legislation and perpetuates the acceptance of harmful products. Health must take precedence over profits, particularly when sugary products are aggressively marketed to children. By adopting the European approach to food standards, North America can work towards a healthier future for its population, reducing the burden of obesity and chronic diseases.