A bill that would outlaw certain additives used in processed food passed the California legislature Tuesday, clearing the way for Gov. Gavin Newsom to sign it into law.
Known for its unwanted headline-grabbing “Skittles ban” moniker, the latest version of the bill actually spares the beloved rainbow-themed candy from having to make changes to its recipe after one of the chemicals in question was dropped from the list.
Assembly Bill 418 would prohibit the manufacture and sale of any products that contain Red Dye No. 3, potassium bromate, brominated vegetable oil or propyl paraben. Those chemicals have already been outlawed in 27 nations in the European Union, according to the bill’s author, Assemblymember Jesse Gabriel (D-Encino).
The bill previously included language to also prohibit the use of titanium dioxide, but that chemical was removed from the banned additive list in its latest revision.
Titanium dioxide was at the center of a lawsuit filed last year by a California man who alleged that Skittles were unsafe for human consumption.
Gabriel said there was enough support to advance the bill as originally drafted, but said the fifth chemical was dropped in an effort to obtain more widespread bipartisan support.
The removal of titanium dioxide now signals that Skittles and other candies that use the chemical, which is a color additive that makes products more “visually appealing” and helps prevent pigment from losing its luster over time, won’t have to make any changes or recipe tweaks to be compliant with California law.
The latest version of the bill also delays the implementation of any ban until 2027 to allow food companies a reasonable window to make necessary changes.
Despite titanium dioxide escaping the dreaded banned chemical list, Gabriel said the bill reflects a “huge step forward” in protecting Californians from toxic chemicals in the food supply.
“It’s unacceptable that the U.S. is so far behind the rest of the world when it comes to food safety,” Gabriel said in a release.
Red Dye No. 3 is used as a coloring agent in various processed food products, potassium bromate can be found in some bread and baked goods, brominated vegetable oil has been used in some store-brand sodas and propyl paraben is a preservative used in numerous baked goods and tortilla products.
The State Rep. insisted that the bill is not a direct ban on any food or products, but rather a move to force the hand of food companies to make the necessary recipe modifications to satisfy the California requirement — something that he says had already happened “in Europe and so many other places around the globe.”
The chemicals are banned in much of the world due to their possible link to significant health risks, including cancer, reproductive issues and behavioral and developmental issues in children.
Gabriel’s office says many major brands including Coke, Pepsi, Gatorade, Dunkin Donuts, Papa John’s Pizza and Panera have voluntarily stopped using them in their products.
The bill picked up bipartisan support throughout the process, including that of former California governor and fitness icon Arnold Schwarzenegger, who called the outlawing of the chemicals a “common sense” issue.
Those in opposition to the bill have been primarily involved in the food and beverage industry.
Earlier this year, trade groups representing some of the industry’s biggest players sent a letter to legislative leaders arguing that all the chemicals on the proposed ban list have been thoroughly reviewed at the federal and state levels.
“Food safety is a paramount concern to us and our members; however, this measure usurps the comprehensive food safety and approval system for these five additives and predetermines ongoing evaluations.”
Despite the urging from the food and beverage industry, the bill has continued to advance, albeit with moderate changes along the way.
On Tuesday, it passed the Assembly by a vote of 55-6, sending it to Newsom’s desk just in time before the legislative session came to an end Thursday.