California Advances Bill to Ban Food Additives Linked to Health Concerns

Kos Temenes
By Kos Temenes
September 15, 2023Californiashare
California Advances Bill to Ban Food Additives Linked to Health Concerns
Packages of Skittles sit on a table in Los Angeles, Calif. on May 30, 2023. California lawmakers on Sept. 11 passed a law banning five chemical food additives over health concerns including the coloring agent used in Skittles candy. (Mario Tama/Getty Images)

A first-of-its-kind bill in the United States to ban food additives linked to potential health issues was passed by California lawmakers on Sept. 11.

The bill pertains to four specific food additives, which have long been controversial. The bill is now awaiting approval from state Gov. Gavin Newsom.

The bill, known as AB 418, seeks to prohibit red dye No. 3, potassium bromate, brominated vegetable oil, and propylparaben, which are already banned in the European Union and several other places overseas.

A fifth additive, Titanium Dioxide, was initially included in the bill but was later crossed off as it failed to garner enough bipartisan support.

The bill passed the Senate after advancing in the state Assembly in May.

AB 418, if signed into law, would mark a pioneering move by the state, banning FDA-approved food additives. If approved, the ban would commence in 2027.

The four chemicals can be found in many products throughout the United States, including some orange sodas, icing, hamburger rolls, candies, and processed foods.

The bill was introduced by Assemblymembers Buffy Wicks and Jesse Gabriel, both Democrats.

“It’s going to give parents more confidence that when they’re buying foods at the grocery store, they don’t have to worry that there’s something in there that’s dangerous for their kids,” Mr. Gabriel told NBC on Sept. 12.

Marketing of products containing the additives is often aimed at children, as well as disadvantaged or minority communities, he said.

Scott Faber, senior vice president of government affairs at the Environmental Working Group, an organization that endorsed AB418, has praised the move.

“This is a truly historic win for consumers. No one should have to worry about eating toxic chemicals,” Mr. Faber said.

Petroleum-Derived Artificial Coloring

Despite red dye No. 3, a petroleum-derived artificial color, having been banned by the FDA in cosmetics long ago due to carcinogenic effects in high doses, its use persisted in some foods and medicines to either make them look more appealing or extend shelf life.

Some studies suggest that artificial food dyes are linked to behavioral problems in children, such as hyperactivity, ADD, and ADHD, although the FDA has denied any connection between the consumption of food dyes and these conditions, citing a lack of evidence.

The other three food additives are also linked to certain types of cancers, as well as reproductive and behavioral problems.

Potassium bromate is a flour additive used to improve the texture of baked goods, allowing bread to rise higher, whereas brominated vegetable oil is an emulsifier found in citrus drinks to prevent flavoring from floating to the top.

Propylparaben is often used in cosmetics and food as a preservative. Research has shown that it mimics estrogen in the body, causing disruptions in the endocrine system.

Nationwide Impact Expected

According to Mr. Faber, implementation of the law should be quick, as he expects food manufacturers to remove the dangerous ingredients well before the 2027 deadline.

He said food manufacturers are likely to ban the additives altogether instead of adjusting sales for California alone, which would mean the bill would have a nationwide impact.

Mr. Gabriel said food manufacturers switching to less harmful alternatives should not be a major issue, as many are readily available, even at lower cost.

“This is not going to lead to any products or any foods coming off the shelf. This is not a ban on any food or any product. It is simply going to require companies to make very, very minor modifications to their recipes, which are the same recipes that they’re already using in other countries,” Mr. Gabriel said.

The bill also received support from former California governor and bodybuilding icon Arnold Schwarzenegger, who said that the issue wasn’t partisan but common sense, the Independent reported.

NTD has reached out to the FDA for comment but has not yet received a reply.

The bill must now be signed into law or vetoed by Oct. 14.

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