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California has become the first state in the country to ban the use of four food additives that are commonly found in thousands of products, including candies, sodas, baked goods, and dairy products. The new law, signed by Governor Gavin Newsom on Saturday, aims to protect consumers from the potential health risks of these chemicals, which have been banned in other countries.
What are the banned additives?
The four additives that are prohibited by the California Food Safety Act are:
- Brominated vegetable oil (BVO): A synthetic chemical that is used to prevent citrus flavors from separating in sodas and sports drinks. BVO has been linked to thyroid problems, memory loss, and nerve disorders.
- Potassium bromate: A flour improver that is used to make breads and pizza dough rise faster and look whiter. Potassium bromate has been classified as a possible human carcinogen by the International Agency for Research on Cancer.
- Propylparaben: A preservative that is used to extend the shelf life of baked goods, trail mixes, tortillas, and cosmetics. Propylparaben has been shown to disrupt hormone function and affect fertility and reproduction.
- Red Dye 3: A color additive that is used to give a red or pink hue to candies, strawberry milk, baked goods, and cosmetics. Red Dye 3 has been found to cause cancer in animals and has been banned from cosmetics in the U.S. since 1990.
Why did California ban them?
The California Food Safety Act was introduced by Assemblymember Jesse Gabriel (D-Woodland Hills) in February 2023, after he learned that these additives had never been approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for human consumption. According to Gabriel, the FDA has not reviewed the safety of these chemicals for 30 to 50 years, if ever.
Gabriel said that his goal was not to ban any products from the market, but to encourage food manufacturers to use safer alternatives that are already available in other countries. He cited the example of Skittles, a candy that contains titanium dioxide, another additive that was originally included in the bill but was later removed. Titanium dioxide is used to make Skittles shiny, but it has no nutritional value and has been linked to inflammation and immune system problems.
“I love Skittles. I eat them all the time,” Gabriel said. “There’s a 0% chance this is actually going to result in a ban of Skittles. All we want the companies to do is switch their recipes in the same way that they’ve done in Europe, Canada the U.K., Brazil, and other countries that have banned these chemicals.”
How will the law affect consumers?
The California Food Safety Act will go into effect in 2027, giving food manufacturers six years to comply with the new regulations. The law will apply to any food product that is manufactured, sold, or distributed in California, regardless of where it is made.
Consumers who are concerned about the additives in their food can check the ingredient labels or use online databases such as [EWG’s Food Scores] or [Consumer Reports’ Greener Choices] to find out more information. They can also contact their favorite brands and ask them to remove these chemicals from their products.
The law will also have implications for other states and countries, as California is a large and influential market for food products. According to Consumer Reports, which co-sponsored the bill along with the Environmental Working Group (EWG), California’s action could prompt the FDA to reevaluate the safety of these additives and update its regulations at the federal level.
“California’s leadership on this issue will not only benefit Californians but all Americans who deserve safe food,” said Michael Hansen, Ph.D., senior scientist at Consumer Reports.