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Consumer Reports Goes After ‘Dangerous’ Food and Beverage Additives

April 8, 2024
‘The Dangerous Dyes and Other Food Additives States Want to Ban’ questions why states are overstepping the FDA’s authority in food safety; it also questions the GRAS process.

Consumer Reports continued its scrutiny of the food & beverage industry with an April 8 online story “The Dangerous Dyes and Other Food Additives States Want to Ban.” The secondary headline is more to the point: “Following California’s lead, more states are trying to keep harmful additives out of our food and our schools.”

Except for its slightly more contentious tone, it mirrors an article we published on March 20: “28 Food Ingredients/Additives That May Be Banned Across the Country.”

“Just a few months after California became the first state to prohibit the use of four dangerous chemicals in food, lawmakers in Illinois, New York, and Pennsylvania are considering similar bans on those and other food additives,” the Consumer Reports article began.

“New York lawmakers are also seeking to close the so-called ‘generally recognized as safe,’ or GRAS, loophole, which many food safety experts consider a large gap in the Food and Drug Administration’s regulatory framework designed to protect Americans from dangerous food additives.

“And California is considering a bill that would expand on last year’s landmark law by banning six commonly used food dyes, plus the white pigment titanium dioxide, from food provided in the state’s public schools.”

The article is sufficiently balanced, with counterpoints from the Consumer Brands Assn. (CBA) and National Confectioners Assn. (NCA). Moreover, those are indeed the facts.

“These state bills overstep the FDA scientific review of these additives and create significant regulatory uncertainty,” the story quoted Sarah Gallo, vice president of product policy at CRA.

Later in the day, NCA put out a statement: “It’s time to stop pretending that magazine publishers and state legislators have the scientific expertise and qualifications to make these very important determinations. The FDA needs to flex its authority as the rightful national regulatory decision maker and leader in food safety. States usurping FDA’s authority does nothing but create a patchwork of inconsistent requirements that increase food costs, create confusion around food safety, and erode consumer confidence.”

The additives singled out in the article and the states considering banning them:

  • Azodicarbonamide (New York)
  • Brominated vegetable oil (BVO) (Illinois, New York and Pennsylvania; it’s already banned in California, and last November the FDA announced a proposed federal ban)
  • Butylated hydroxyanisole (BHA) (New York and Pennsylvania)
  • Potassium bromate (Illinois, New York and Pennsylvania; it’s already banned in California)
  • Propylparaben (Illinois and New York; it’s already banned in California)
  • Titanium dioxide (California in schools only and New York)
  • Red dye No. 3 (aka FD&C Red No. 3, Red Dye 3, and Erythrosine) (Illinois, New York and Pennsylvania; it’s already banned in California and is currently under review by the FDA
  • Red dye No. 40, Yellow dye No. 5, Yellow dye No. 6, Blue dye No. 1, Blue dye No. 2, Green dye No. 3 (California in schools only and Pennsylvania [Green No. 3 not included])

The Consumer Reports article is readable here.

Near the end, the article notes, “The FDA has not responded to specific questions about the new state proposals.” And:

“[Consumer Reports] is part of a coalition—which includes industry representatives as well as consumer and safety advocates—urging Congress to double the budget of the FDA’s Office of Food Additive Safety so it can conduct more reviews and reassessments of food chemicals and additives.”

About the Author

Dave Fusaro | Editor in Chief

Dave Fusaro has served as editor in chief of Food Processing magazine since 2003. Dave has 30 years experience in food & beverage industry journalism and has won several national ASBPE writing awards for his Food Processing stories. Dave has been interviewed on CNN, quoted in national newspapers and he authored a 200-page market research report on the milk industry. Formerly an award-winning newspaper reporter who specialized in business writing, he holds a BA in journalism from Marquette University. Prior to joining Food Processing, Dave was Editor-In-Chief of Dairy Foods and was Managing Editor of Prepared Foods.

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