A bill to ban five common food additives in California, including those commonly found in some candies, was approved by the Assembly Health Committee in a 12-1 vote on Tuesday, overcoming the first major voting hurdle.
Assembly Bill 418, authored by Assemblyman Jesse Gabriel (D – Woodland Hills) proposes to prohibit the manufacture, sale, or distribution of any food product in California containing Red Dye No. 3, Titanium Dioxide, Potassium Bromate, Brominated Vegetable Oil, or Propyl Paraben. If passed, the ban would go into effect beginning January 1, 2025, giving foodmakers more than a year to find alternatives.
The Assemblyman highlights in the bill medical issues caused by the additives. This includes Red Dye No. 3 being linked to cancer and behavioral problems, Propylparaben being linked to hormone and reproductive problems, Titanium Dioxide being found to damage RNA and the immune system, Potassium bromate also causing cancer, and Brominated vegetable oil being linked to nervous system damage.
Assemblyman Gabriel said he also hopes to bring the standards on par with the European Union, which has already banned all five additives from being used in food products such as Skittles and Nesquik in most European nations. Since being introduced in February, the bill has had to fight early negative press, as many outlets had called it the “Skittles Ban Bill” with many linking the ban on the additives to a total ban on the candy. Despite the bill gaining support from Democrats and some Republicans in the Assembly, Gabriel has had no continue to say that the bill would not result in a ban on Skittles and other foods using the additives. Instead, he has said that AB 418 would bring about change through ingredient changes.
“There is no realistic chance that this bill will result in Skittles or any other product being pulled off the shelf,” said Assemblyman Gabriel on Tuesday. “The idea here is for these companies to make minor modifications to their recipes so that these products no longer include dangerous and toxic chemicals. Skittles and many other brands have already made changes to their recipes in the EU, the United Kingdom, and other nations where these chemicals are banned. While the chemical companies might want you to believe we’re going too far with this bill, we are in fact many steps behind the rest of the world. We simply want our kids to have the same protection.”
AB 418 passes 12-1 in Assm. Comm. vote
Shortly after saying that to the Assembly Health Committee on Tuesday, the bill made it through the committee with a 12-1 vote. Many consumer safety groups and health groups applauded the passage, noting that the FDA had not properly reviewed the additives and that they have only been allowed in through a loophole.
“For decades, the FDA has failed to keep us safe from toxic food chemicals,” said Environmental Working Group Senior Vice President of Government Affairs Scott Faber. “The chemical companies keep exploiting a loophole that allows for food additives that have not been adequately reviewed for safety by the FDA. The FDA consistently fails to reassess chemicals, even in light of new science. The confectioners and the food industry know the review process at the FDA is broken. In the absence of federal leadership, it’s up to states like California to keep us safe from dangerous chemicals in candy, cookies, and other foods our families enjoy.”
Despite the support for the bill, AB 418’s passage on Tuesday was seen as a major blow by many business and food industry groups. In a letter last month, many of these groups, including Consumer Brands Association, the American Bakers Association and the California Chamber of Commerce acknowledged that the bill goes around food safety approval systems and evaluations, and instead opts to just end the usage of the additives outright.
“This measure usurps the comprehensive food safety and approval system for these five additives and predetermines ongoing evaluations,” said the organizations. “The chemicals in question are safe and the food safety process is active and should be allowed to continue the appropriate review of these five and all additives.”
In a Globe interview on Wednesday, food additive consultant Gina Myers told the Globe that “If they wanted a thorough review by the FDA, they should have pushed for that instead and have it go through the system. Instead, they go straight to the death penalty without appeals and are not giving some companies enough time to find alternates. This is a really backdoor way to go through with this.”
AB 418 is expected to beard next in the Assembly Environmental Safety and Toxic Materials Committee soon.