A bill that would ban five common food additives in California, including those commonly found in some candies, was passed by the Assembly on Monday, moving the bill to the Senate.
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, Gabriel and supporters of AB 418 have had to battle a huge backlash in the press, with many outlets calling it the “Skittles Ban Bill” as it is linked to a total ban on the candy due to the additives. Despite the bill gaining support from Democrats and some Republicans in the Assembly, Gabriel has had to 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.
Despite continued opposition from food manufacturers and members of the public, AB 418 has quickly moved through the Assembly, with Committee votes routinely only having a few members vote against the bill or abstain. On Monday, it culminated in an Assembly vote, where it passed and went on to the Senate.
“Today’s strong vote is a major step forward in our effort to protect children and families in California from dangerous and toxic chemicals in our food supply,” said Assemblyman Jesse Gabriel on Monday. “It’s unacceptable that the U.S. is so far behind the rest of the world when it comes to banning these dangerous additives. We don’t love our children any less than they do in Europe and it’s not too much to ask food and beverage manufacturers to switch to the safer alternative ingredients that they already use in Europe and so many other nations around the globe.”
Supporters also praised the passage of AB 418, with Environmental Working Group Senior Vice President Scott Faber noting that “For decades, the FDA has failed to keep us safe from toxic food chemicals. The chemical companies keep exploiting a loophole that allows for food additives that have not been adequately reviewed for safety by the FDA. And the FDA consistently fails to reassess chemicals, even in light of new science. The food and confectioners industries know the review process at the FDA is broken.”
However, opponents continued to insist that AB 418 was instead a backdoor method to banning the additives because they had not gotten their way in Washington.
“There are right ways to push for a ban and wrong ways to push for a ban, and this bill is an extremely wrong way to go about this,” explained food additive consultant Gina Myers in a Globe interview on Monday. “They should get a thorough review by the FDA and work through there. Instead they go through the state level and hope to get a ban done there before we get all the facts and give companies enough time to come up with alternates. No one is saying don’t ban them, but it needs to be done in a way where the company and consumer get by and economic damage is at a minimum. This is a really impatient, callous, and imprudent way with a disregard for the consequences where better ways to do this are very much available.”
AB 418 is due to be heard in the Senate soon.
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