California Food Safety Act
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Earlier this month, the California Legislature passed bill AB418, also known as the California Food Safety Act. Now, it is on its way to get signed by California’s governor, Gavin Newsome. AB418 is a bill that would ban the use of four food additives in California: brominated vegetable oil, potassium bromate, propyl paraben, and red dye 3.

Understanding the California Food Safety Act, AB418

A child reaches for toxic chemicals, aka food products, in the grocery store.
Many products containing the banned ingredients are marketed to children, and placed at their eye level in grocery stores.

This bill is sponsored by trusted consumer advocates, the Environmental Working Group and Consumer Reports. These groups have stepped in because, according to assembly floor analysis, “The government does not proactively regulate chemicals used in manufactured and packaged foods, and even allows food manufacturers to decide if a chemical is safe for public consumption. As a result, some harmful chemicals, such as the ones listed in this bill, end up in food that all of us, including our children, consume every day.”

A Closer Look at the Banned Ingredients of AB418

AB418 was introduced in response to concerns about the safety of these food additives. Brominated vegetable oil, potassium bromate, and propyl paraben have been linked to several health problems, including cancer, reproductive problems, and developmental delays. Red dye 3—a synthetic dye containing petroleum that is already banned for use in cosmetics—has been linked to cancer, as well as hyperactivity and allergic reactions in children.

These ingredients have been well-documented as being toxic to humans and, given that, are already banned by the European Union. You can find the banned ingredients in candy, cereal, soda, salad dressing, snacks, and other heavily processed food.

Balancing Health and Industry Interests

Mountain Dew is banned in countries due to its past use of
Mountain Dew is banned in Japan and the European Union because it used to contain brominated vegetable oil (BVO).

There has been significant debate over the safety of the four food additives banned. Basically, the argument against the ban prioritizes company financials over the health of US citizens. Some argue that the evidence is inconclusive, it would be costly for food manufacturers, that it is essentially telling consumers what they should and should not eat, and consumers would have a difficult time finding affordable products. 

The FDA’s Take on Titanium Dioxide

The California Food Safety Act initially included titanium dioxide, a widely used food additive, but this chemical has since been removed. Chiefly, the FDA has reviewed the available scientific evidence and concluded that titanium dioxide is not a health hazard when consumed in food. Following the FDA’s safety assessment and the widespread use of titanium dioxide in food, the California Senate removed it from the list of chemicals that would be banned under AB418.

A Milestone in Food Safety Legislation

When Governor Newsome approves AB418, it will be the first law in the United States to ban the use of these four food additives. It would also be one of the most significant food safety laws in California history. AB418 will prohibit the sale of food products in California that contain the four banned food additives, starting on January 1st, 2027. And because processed food is generally distributed nationally, these safer products may be available to people in other states.

What do you think of the California Food Safety Act? Let us know in the comment section!

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