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California Goes After Seven More Food Additives in Latest Proposal

March 14, 2024
Assembly bill would ban seven food dyes — again including titanium dioxide — from use in foods offered in California’s public schools.

Less than a year after California signed into law the California Food Safety Act, which banned the use of four food additives in foods sold in the state (to take effect in 2027), lawmakers are again on the warpath against certain food ingredients.

Assembly Bill 2316 has been introduced to the legislature, and it would ban seven dyes from foods offered in California’s public schools: Blue 1, Blue 2, Green 3, Red 40, Yellow 5, Yellow 6 and titanium dioxide. Assemblyman Jesse Gabriel authored the bill as well as last year’s California Food Safety Act, and says it will better protect children’s health and encourage the elimination of these ingredients from foods everywhere.

He told NBC News that the proposed legislation wouldn’t ban any specific foods or products, but instead would force processors to alter formulations, often simply needing to substitute out one ingredient, he said. The wording of the bill says, “a public school shall not offer, sell, or otherwise provide any food containing any of the following substances.” Gabriel also told NBC News over the phone that synthetic dyes are non-essential ingredients added to food “to make them appear more appealing. But for all of them, there are specific alternatives.”

As in previous proposed bans, supporters question FDA research and data that they consider outdated and no longer relevant. Meanwhile, industry associations such as the National Confectioners Assn. (NCA) have come out against the bill and its backers. In a local news report, the NCA was quoted as saying, “These activists are dismantling our national food safety system state by state in an emotionally driven campaign that lacks scientific backing,” the NCA said in a statement. “FDA is the only institution in America that can stop this sensationalistic agenda, which is not based on facts and science.”

The local news report noted that the ban likely wouldn’t impact healthier alternatives offered for meals in lunchrooms, but that the list of additives were found in candy, drinks and processed snacks — items often found in vending machines at schools.

Last year’s California Food Safety Act banned red dye No. 3, propylparaben, potassium bromate and brominated vegetable oil. Worth noting, titanium dioxide originally was included in the California Food Safety Act that became law last year, but it was pulled from the bill before it was passed.

After passage of the bill last year, FDA maintained its position that propylparaben and potassium bromate could be safely used in food products, but in November stated that it could no longer affirm that brominated vegetable oil was safe. It is currently reviewing Red Dye No. 3. NCA has said that the process around brominated vegetable oil is proof that FDA should be allowed to do its job.

Meanwhile, other states have followed California’s lead and proposed their own legislation, predominantly modeled after the California Food Safety Act, including Illinois, New York, Washington and Missouri.

About the Author

Andy Hanacek | Senior Editor

Andy Hanacek has covered meat, poultry, bakery and snack foods as a B2B editor for nearly 20 years, and has toured hundreds of processing plants and food companies, sharing stories of innovation and technological advancement throughout the food supply chain. In 2018, he won a Folio:Eddie Award for his unique "From the Editor's Desk" video blogs, and he has brought home additional awards from Folio and ASBPE over the years. In addition, Hanacek led the Meat Industry Hall of Fame for several years and was vice president of communications for We R Food Safety, a food safety software and consulting company.

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