U.S – A California bill that could outlaw products containing certain additives is drawing retaliation from industry stakeholders who have argued that the additives in contention are “safe”.

Assemblyman Jesse Gabriel, who represents part of Los Angeles, filed AB418 in February to limit the use of five popular food additives that have been linked to cancer, DNA damage, and organ damage.

If the bill is passed into law, foods containing the additives will either need to change their formula or won’t be authorized for sale in California.

Other foods including jelly beans, PEZ candies, Trident sugar-free gum, Campbell’s soup, and regional American bread brands could also be impacted.

“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,” Gabriel said in a statement.

The bill, which he filed alongside fellow Democratic co-sponsor Asm Buffy Wicks, targets brominated vegetable oil, potassium bromate, titanium dioxide, propylparaben, and the dye Red 3.

Titanium dioxide

Three of the five additives—brominated vegetable oil, potassium bromate, and titanium dioxide—are already outlawed in the European Union

In the group, titanium dioxide is the most notable. A 2022 lawsuit that was brought up in the Golden State last year claimed that the iconic candy Skittles were unfit for consumption because of the ingredient.

The naturally occurring powder is frequently used as a coloring and to stop products from caking. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has allowed it as an additive, but activists want the organization to reconsider its 1966 decision.

The EU’s ban on titanium dioxide took effect last year with manufacturers being forced to reformulate their food and beverage products. However, the UK dispelled the European Food Safety Authority’s (EFSA) research findings which flag titanium dioxide’s toxicity.

As more studies reveal the possible risks of the products, requests for the additive to be outlawed have grown.

Ban could have a national impact

While the state assembly is only concerned with matters in California, Gabriel does see the new regulations as 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. 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.

Nevertheless, a number of industry stakeholders have argued that the additives are “safe”.

Representatives from organizations including the American Chemical Council, California Grocers Association, and the National Confectioners Association said that the bill is premature because the safety of the additives is already being examined by several other procedures.

“All five of these additives have been thoroughly reviewed by the federal and state systems and many international scientific bodies and continue to be deemed safe,” the letter, written in opposition to the bill, stated.

It further stated that a petition to ban the Red 3 dye was filed in November of last year and is still open for comments as of next month.

Moreover, in 2022, the non-profit consumer protection organization Center for Science in the Public Interest submitted a petition to the California Department of Public Health asking for a warning label on foods containing synthetic colors.

On April 11, 2023, there will be a hearing for the petition.

A separate letter, penned solely by the National Confectioners Association, highlighted that the confectionery industry supports more than 100,000 good-paying jobs in California.

“As the makers of chocolate, candy, gum and mints, the confectionery industry… we create good-paying jobs in the manufacturing sector and support thousands of additional American jobs throughout the economy. 

“In California, the confectionary industry represents a U.S$7.7 billion economic output, pays U.S$1.8 billion in wages, and supports 106,351 total jobs in the state,” read the letter.

The letter concluded by saying ‘there is no evidence to support banning the listed ingredients in the bill’.

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