May 30, 2023

Bill banning 5 food additives passes California State Assembly

Five chemicals used in certain packaged foods could be banned under a bill passed last week by the California State Assembly.

The bill would institute a first-in-the-nation ban on brominated vegetable oil, potassium bromate, propylparaben, Red Dye No. 3, and titanium dioxide in candy, cereals, and other processed food. The bill, which passed the lower house 54-11 on May 15, will now be heard by the California Senate.

Beginning Jan. 1, 2025, the bill would prohibit the manufacture, sale, delivery or distribution of a food product containing the specified substances.

A search of the Environmental Working Group’s Eat Well Guide returns nearly 3,000 products that use red dye No. 3 as an ingredient, including popular candies such as Skittles, Nerds and Trolli gummies. Photo: File

Brominated vegetable oil, used to keep citrus flavoring from separating in some beverages, has been linked to neurological changes, such as balance and memory problems. Potassium bromate, added to baked goods to help dough rise, has been linked to cancer and kidney damage in lab animals. Propylparaben, used for antimicrobial food preservation, has been linked to hormonal dysregulation.

Red dye No. 3, used to color many popular candies, is banned as a carcinogen in cosmetics and has been linked to behavioral problems in children, while titanium dioxide, used as a white pigment and to give a smooth texture to candies and other processed foods, has been linked to cancer in rodents and designated as a carcinogen by the International Agency for Research on Cancer.

“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,” Assemblymember Jesse Gabriel, the bill’s sponsor, said in a statement. “It’s unacceptable that the U.S. is so far behind the rest of the world when it comes to banning these dangerous additives.”

The EU and other nations have prohibited the chemicals’ use in food, and manufacturers including Coke, Pepsi, Gatorade and Dunkin Donuts have stopped using the additives.

“I don’t know if there is, for any of these things, a safe level,” Stephanie Widmer, an ABC News medical contributor, told “Good Morning America,” stressing the importance of moderation and variation in diet.

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