Proposed California Bill Could Lead to National Ban on Harmful Food Additives

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SACRAMENTO, Calif. – California Assemblymember Jesse Gabriel recently introduced a bill to protect us from toxins in our foods that could become the first of its kind in the nation.

Assembly Bill 418 aims to ban five toxic food additives to protect Californians from substances linked to cancer, nervous system damage, hyperactivity, and DNA damage. If passed, the law could set a precedent for other states to follow, leading to a national ban on these toxic substances.

“Californians shouldn’t have to worry that the food they buy in their neighborhood grocery store might be full of dangerous additives or toxic chemicals. This bill will correct for a concerning lack of federal oversight and help protect our kids, public health, and the safety of our food supply.”

Assemblymember Gabriel, Chair of the Assembly Committee on Privacy and Consumer Protection

Although most of the more than 10,000 chemicals used in food production in the US are generally safe for consumption, the five additives targeted by the bill could pose a severe threat to public health. The proposed ban covers Red No. 3, brominated vegetable oil, potassium bromate, propyl paraben, and titanium dioxide.

  • Red Dye No. 3, which is present in over 2,000 food products, including candies, cookies, and other foods marketed to children, has been associated with cancer and behavioral issues in children. The FDA banned numerous applications of the dye in 1990 due to cancer risks, while the European Union allowed it only in candied and cocktail cherries since 1994.
  • Brominated vegetable oil can accumulate in the body and has been linked to various health issues, including damage to the nervous system. Its use in processed foods is not permitted in the EU.
  • Potassium bromate, which has been linked to cancer, has not been reviewed by the FDA for safety since 1973. It has been banned from use in processed food in the EU since 1990 and has been listed on California’s Proposition 65 registry of chemicals that may cause cancer since then.
  • Propylparaben, which has been associated with harm to the hormone and reproductive systems, including reduced sperm counts, has not been extensively reviewed by the FDA for safety. While it has been prohibited from use in food in the EU since 2006, it is still used as a preservative in the United States.
  • Titanium dioxide, which has been linked to damage to our DNA and harm to the immune system, was banned by the European Union in 2022 from use in food offered for sale. However, it is still allowed in food sold in the United States, and it is present in popular snacks like Skittles.

Children are especially vulnerable to chemical exposure, making them at high risk of the toxic substances targeted by the bill. Concerns about food chemicals are consistently ranked as a top food safety issue by consumers, but additives are not adequately regulated by the FDA. In 2022, a congressional report found toxic heavy metals in several top baby food brands sold in the United States.

The proposed ban could have far-reaching effects, not just in California but across the US. The bill is aimed at correcting a lack of federal oversight, and advocates hope that it will set an example for other states to follow.

Health and environmental groups have welcomed the introduction of the bill and are urging lawmakers to support it. The proposed ban has been long-awaited by many activists who have been advocating for the elimination of toxic food additives for years.

In addition to health concerns, there is a growing demand from consumers for greater transparency in food labeling. Many people are concerned about the presence of synthetic chemicals in their food and want to know what they are consuming.

The proposed ban on toxic food additives in California could pave the way for more significant changes in the food industry. It could encourage manufacturers to seek out safer alternatives to the toxic substances and lead to the development of more sustainable and health-conscious food production practices.

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