California Assembly toxics panel advances landmark ban on chemicals in processed food


The California Assembly’s Committee on Environmental Safety and Toxic Materials Tuesday approved a first-in-the-nation bill to ban five harmful chemicals from candy, cereals, and other processed food. That approval followed the Assembly’s Health Committee’s “do pass” recommendation earlier this month.

The bill, AB 418, sponsored by Assemblymember Jesse Gabriel, would end the use of brominated vegetable oil, potassium bromate, propylparaben, Red Dye No. 3 and titanium dioxide in popular food products sold in the state. Any food manufactured elsewhere but placed for sale in California will have to comply with the regulation.

The chemicals have been linked to serious health problems, such as a higher risk of cancer, nervous system damage, and hyperactivity.

European regulators have already banned all five substances from use in food, with the narrow exception of Red No. 3 in candied cherries. Given the size of California’s economy, A.B. 418 would set an important precedent for improving the safety of many processed foods.

Following Europe’s lead and protecting U.S. consumers is seen by supporters as the right step, while opponents of the bill that claim it would end the sale of some candy and other popular items in the state.

“There is no realistic chance that this bill will result in Skittles or any other product being pulled off the shelf,” said Gabriel, who chairs the Assembly Committee on Privacy and Consumer Protection. “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 European Union, the United Kingdom, and other nations where these chemicals are banned,” he continued. “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.”

The Environmental Working Group and Consumer Reports support A.B. 418. The California Assembly’s Appropriations Committee will next consider the bill.

EWG and CR say there are more than 10,000 chemicals allowed for use in food sold in the U.S. Nearly 99 percent of those introduced since 2000 were approved by the food and chemical industry, not the Food and Drug Administration, the agency tasked with ensuring our food supply is safe.

“Despite the serious and well-documented risks posed to our health by these five food chemicals, the FDA has failed to take action to protect the public,” said Brian Ronholm, director of food policy at Consumer Reports.

“At a time when the FDA’s weak oversight has prevented it from taking action, it is critical for states like California to ensure consumers are protected from these toxic food chemicals,” Ronholm continued. “By removing these harmful chemicals from candies, cookies, and other processed food, this bill will protect Californians and encourage manufacturers to make their products safer for the rest of the country.”

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Food Safety News, 20-04-23