California makes history as first state to ban food additives linked to disease


Dive Brief:

  • California is the first state to ban four food additive ingredients that are lawful under different regulation from the FDA.
  • The California Food Safety Act ends the usage of brominated vegetable oil, potassium bromate, propylparaben and Red Dye No. 3 which have all been linked to health complications like hyperactivity, nervous system damage, and an increased cancer risk.
  • Opponents of the bill included the Consumer Brands Association, the International Association of Color Manufacturers, National Confectioners Association, and the American Bakers Association. These organizations say the federal government already has a “comprehensive food safety process that reviews food additives.”

Dive Insight:

Advocates of the California Food Safety Act — which prohibits the manufacturing, distribution and sale of food and beverages that contain brominated vegetable oil, potassium bromate, propylparaben and red dye 3 — note that other countries have already banned some of these ingredients. 

Companies still have a few years to tweak their recipes to offer the same food and drink items, just with different ingredients. The law goes into effect in January, 2027.

“Californians will still be able to access and enjoy their favorite food products, with greater confidence in the safety of such products,” said Gov. Gavin Newsom in a statement. 

New York is following suit, with a similar bill making its way through the state legislatureThe law, which was introduced in March, would ban the use of five food additives and food dye additives: brominated vegetable oil, potassium bromate, propylparabens, Red Dye No. 3, and titanium dioxide which is an addition from the passed California bill. 

While the use of food additives to enhance the shelf life, taste, or texture of various commercial food products is nothing new, the science behind the health effects of increased consumption of such additives is shedding new light on just how dangerous some of them can be,” the proposed bill reads.

This is the first time that a singular state has prohibited the use of ingredients that are allowed by the FDA.

In 2018, The California Environmental Protection Agency, the Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment (OEHHA) received funding to “conduct a risk assessment … on the potential impacts of synthetic food dyes on children,” and found that the percentage of American children and adolescents diagnosed with ADHD has increased from an estimated 6.1% to 10.2% during the last 20 years, according to the research which was cited in the bill’s Assembly Floor Analysis. 

The report also found that current federal levels for safe intake of synthetic food dyes may not “sufficiently protect children’s behavioral health,” as these levels were established by the FDA decades ago.

The EU, United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, China and Japan have already banned these four ingredients. 

“It’s unacceptable that the U.S. is so far behind the rest of the world when it comes to food safety,” said assemblymember Jesse Gabriel in a statement on Facebook. 

Food giants like Coca-Cola and PepsiCo have voluntarily pulled the additives from their products,” said Gabriel, “and this effort by California lawmakers is a “huge step forward in our effort to protect children and families.”


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