California lawmakers plan to ban food additives found in candy such as Skittles, Sour Patch Kids and some baked goods in the US.
Assemblyman Jesse Gabriel, who represents part of Los Angeles, filed AB418 last month in an effort to curb the use of five common food additives linked to cancer, DNA and organ damage.
Of the five additives that would be included in the ban, three — brominated vegetable oil, potassium bromate and titanium dioxide — are banned in the EU. One, the dye Red 3, is banned from use in cosmetic products in America.
If the bill becomes law, foods that include them will either have to change their formula or not be allowed for sale in America’s most populous state.
Foods that could be affected include other treats such as jelly beans, PEZ candy, Trident sugar-free gum, Campbell’s soup and smaller bread brands from around America.
‘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,’ Asm Gabriel said in a statement.
‘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.’
The bill, which he filed alongside fellow Democratic co-sponsor Asm Buffy Wicks, targets five additives in particular, which also includes propylparaben.
Asm Gabriel told DailyMail.com ‘the goal of the bill is to protect kids and their parents from harmful chemicals.’
If it becomes law, the bill would also prevent the manufacturing of food products including these chemicals in the state — even if they are sold elsewhere.
While the state assembly is only concerned with matters in California, Asm Gabriel does see the new regulations having a national impact.
‘The idea here is for [companies] to change their recipes,’ he explained, saying he doesn’t expect many firms to abandon the large California market.
Asm Jesse Gabriel (pictured) filed the bill last month. He hopes to ‘protect’ families in California by banning these potentially harmful substances
But, if they change their products for California, they will likely make the change nationwide.
‘It is unlikely they’ll have one recipe in California and one in Oklahoma.’
He said the five chemicals were specifically identified because each are already banned from food products in the EU.
Titanium dioxide is the most notable of the group.
The additive was at the center of a 2022 lawsuit filed in the Golden State last year alleging the popular candy Skittles were not fit to be eaten.
The naturally occurring powder is used to prevent goods from caking and often used as coloring.
It has been approved as an additive by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), though activists want the agency to revisit the 1966 decision.
The calls for the additive to be banned come as increased research shows the potential dangers of the foods.
A German review of previous research published in 2015 found titanium dioxide could accumulate in a person’s bloodstream, kidney, liver and spleen.
In 2017, French researchers found this build-up could put people at risk of intestinal inflammation, immune system damage and even cancer.
Plaintiffs in the California case allege that Mars, which manufactures Skittles, is still selling the product despite admitting to the additive’s dangers in 2016.
The additive was banned from food products in the EU last year, with regulators citing these same concerns.
‘Why are these toxic chemicals in our food?’ Susan Little, from the consumer advocacy organization Environment Working Group, said.
‘We know they are harmful and that children are likely eating more of these chemicals than adults. It makes no sense that the same products food manufacturers sell in California are sold in the EU but without these toxic chemicals.’
The food is also a listed ingredient for many Campbell’s soup products, sauces made by Old El Paso, and other candies and baked goods.
Another targeted additive is Red 3, a food dye included in many candies and other sweet treats.
Since the early 1980s, studies have shown the additive can cause cancer in laboratory animals in very high doses and has been linked to behavioral issues in children.
It was banned in cosmetic products in 1990 for these reasons but remains in many food and sweets, including pastries and breakfast cereals.
A pair of 2016 studies found Red 3 is in more than one in 10 candies in the US, and more than 80 percent of children under two had consumed it in the past two weeks.
The Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI), a Washington DC-based consumer advocacy group, led a petition to the FDA to ban the chemical last year.
A 2012 study from Brazilian researchers found Red 3 could cause genotoxicity – when the DNA suffers toxic damage – and causes permanent transmissible changes to strains as well.
In 2020, California’s Environmental Protection Agency found children who consumed Red 3 regularly were more likely to suffer from hyperactivity and inattentiveness.
A 2016 study led by researchers from the University of North Carolina, Asheville found that the dye was being used in 11.1 percent of candy products.
It was also found in 3.3 percent of pastries, 2.6 percent of fruit snacks, and 2.6 percent of cakes marketed to children.
Brominated vegetable oil is a plant-derived substance used to combine the elements of citrus-flavored soft drinks.
Long-term exposure to the chemical can harm the body’s central nervous system. It has been linked to the development of chronic headaches, memory loss and impaired balance.
It was previously used in the popular soda Mountain Dew, until parent company Pepsi removed the ingredient in 2020.
Sun Drop, a similarly flavored soda manufactured by Keurig Dr Pepper, still uses it.
Many other budget and store brand versions of Mountain Dew and Sprite sold around the country also use the chemical.
It has been banned as an additive in the EU, India and Japan. Its use in the US is limited to just citrus drinks, where it is uniquely able to mix different elements.
Propylparaben is often used in baking products as a preservative, as the substance derived from some plants and insects has anti-microbial and anti-fungal properties.
Some highly-processed, pre-made baked goods include it. The Weight Watchers line of backed deserts — targeted at people trying to shed pounds — are among the culprits.
The additive has been linked to fertility issues in mice, with previous research showing that it could reduce sperm counts in males and disrupt estrogen development in females.
Some experts fear it could cause similar harm to the endocrine systems of humans.
Despite this, the FDA still considers the propylparaben to be ‘generally recognized as safe’.
Potassium Bromate is found in many baked goods too, including popular sugar cookie brand Balducci’s.
It is banned in the EU, Canada and Brazil — among others — for its links to the development of thyroid and kidney cancer.
It is often used in processed foods to make dough rise higher.