California governor signs landmark bill to ban harmful food chemicalsCalifornia governor signs landmark bill to ban harmful food chemicals
The Golden State to officially ban four common food additives–brominated vegetable oil, potassium bromate, propylparaben and red dye No. 3–citing health concerns.
October 8, 2023
At a Glance
- AB 418, or California Food Safety Act, sets precedent that could be followed by other states, including New York.
- Ban takes effect in 2027 and will require food companies to reformulate products or remove them from California market.
- The Golden State leads the way in food safety with ban on four harmful ingredients, which includes red dye No. 3.
Editor's note: This article has been updated with a statement from the National Confectioners Association
California Assemblymember Jesse Gabriel declared victory Oct. 7 as the bill he sponsored, AB 418 (also known as the California Food Safety Act), was signed into law by Gov. Gavin Newsom. Four common food additives: brominated vegetable oil, potassium bromate, propylparaben and red dye No. 3 will be prohibited in the state, effective Jan. 1, 2027. After that date, manufacturing, selling, delivering, distributing, holding or offering for sale a product that contains any of these substances in California would be punished by a civil penalty.
Gabriel said that he didn’t see any credible evidence to suggest that the food and beverage industry is going to incur additional costs. “It's interesting because nobody's really presented us with any evidence that that's gonna happen,” he said. Yet, those in the food industry understand the costs associated with reformulation and often, the reliance on more expensive ingredients.
Former FDA deputy commissioner Frank Yiannas opposed the bill, saying, “The disruption such an approach would cause to the U.S. food system cannot be overstated.” In a system where state legislatures start banning different ingredients, business uncertainty is inevitable, he added.
Changes dictated by political opinion, rather than on science, place unnecessary costs and disruption on the consumer. He foresees state bans of ingredients creating havoc as manufacturers reconfigure their production lines to produce uniquely formulated products for one state. Gabriel assumed the bill will require food companies to make minor modifications to their “recipes.”
The passage of legislation that will likely increase retail prices comes at a time when consumers are already feeling the pinch. Food prices were 4.3% higher in August 2023 than a year ago, according to the Economic Research Service, USDA. “In 2023, all food prices are predicted to increase 5.8%, with a prediction interval of 5.4% to 6.2%.”
AB 418 is often described as landmark legislation because it is the first bill proposed by a state to prohibit the use of certain ingredients within the state. It sets a dangerous precedent, say experts. A bill banning the same ingredients was introduced in New York last spring. What food additives might be targeted next? Gabriel responded, “I don't have any thought of doing that at this time, but that's always a possibility in the future.”
Dana Alpert, senior legislative and press aide, office of Assemblymember Jesse Gabriel, said, “We chose these five chemicals because they were found to be particularly heinous upon careful review.”
The California assembly amended the original bill by removing titanium dioxide from the list of ingredients to ban. FDA is currently reassessing titanium dioxide, Red No. 3 and brominated vegetable oil uses in food and drugs.
On Oct. 9, the National Confectioners Association released the following statement:
"California is once again making decisions based on soundbites rather than science. Governor Newsom's approval of this bill will undermine consumer confidence and create confusion around food safety. This law replaces a uniform national food safety system with a patchwork of inconsistent state requirements created by legislative fiat that will increase food costs. This is a slippery slope that the FDA could prevent by engaging on this important topic. We should be relying on the scientific rigor of the FDA in terms of evaluating the safety of food ingredients and additives."
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