Skittles Ban? California Passes Landmark Food Safety Bill

Skittles Ban? California Passes Landmark Food Safety Bill

A potential Skittles ban could be underway in California as a ban on several hazardous chemicals found in processed foods recently gained approval.

In an unprecedented move, California is set to institute a groundbreaking ban on four chemicals found in many processed foods — from candies and cereals to salad dressings. This legislation, now awaiting Governor Gavin Newsom’s signature, has popularly come to be known as the “Skittles ban” due to its initial inclusion of a fifth chemical.

The California Food Safety Act, AB 418, gained approval in the state legislature earlier this week. The bill had previously garnered endorsement from the Assembly in the spring, following a nod from the health committee.

Democratic Assembly Member Jesse Gabriel, from California’s 46th district, introduced this bill. With backing from the Environmental Working Group and Consumer Reports, the bill aims to prohibit brominated vegetable oil, potassium bromate, propylparaben and red dye No. 3 in food items retailed across California.

Related: Search for Titanium Dioxide Alternatives Intensifies as Potential Ban is Proposed

In the early 1990s, after laboratory tests revealed that red dye No. 3 induced cancer in mice, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) banned its use in cosmetics. The bill dictates that companies that continue using these chemicals will face a $5,000 fine for the initial violation and up to $10,000 for each following infraction.

Interestingly, the Skittles ban initially had its sights on a fifth chemical — titanium dioxide, an ingredient found in Skittles. But its exclusion from the bill’s final version ensured that Skittles manufacturers wouldn’t need to alter their iconic recipe.

As for the California Food Safety Act, Gabriel mentioned that 27 European countries have already prohibited the aforementioned chemicals. Post-passage of the bill, Gabriel expressed enthusiasm about presenting the legislation to Governor Newsom, emphasizing the importance of protecting Californians, especially children, from these chemicals.

While Europe has banned all but red dye No. 3, which can be found in candied cherries and other red foods and beverages, the US is now making strides with California leading the charge in the Skittles ban campaign.

New York isn’t far behind either. State Senator Brian Kavanagh proposed a bill similar to the Skittles ban, currently under review by the New York State Senate Agriculture Committee. Health concerns related to these chemicals form the core argument for both legislations.

To shed light on the Skittles ban and its significance, Dr. Stephanie Widmer, an ABC News medical contributor, emphasized the importance of understanding the impact of these chemicals. While small amounts may not pose immediate risks, consumers should be aware of the potential long-term effects.

Widmer acknowledged that monitoring and regulating every new substance in the market can be a daunting task for the FDA. However, she affirmed the necessity of vigilance, noting that many harmful additives have found their way into our food. She commended the FDA’s efforts, even if the agency might sometimes seem like it’s playing catch-up.

A surprising revelation is that over 10,000 chemicals are sanctioned for use in food within the US. Notably, 99 percent of these approvals come from the food and chemical industry, sidelining the FDA, the organization entrusted with the safeguarding of America’s food supply.

“It’s going to make our food supply much safer,” Gabriel told NBC, noting the bill could have a significant impact on the nation’s food safety. “It’s going to give parents more confidence that when they’re buying food at the grocery store, they don’t have to worry that there’s something in there that’s dangerous for their kids.”