The sale and production of Skittles, Pez candy, and Campbell’s soups may soon be stopped in California after state lawmakers plan to ban a number of food additives found in these products.
In February 2023, assemblyman Jesse Gabriel, who represents part of Los Angeles, filed AB 418 in an effort to restrict the use of titanium dioxide, Red 3, propylparaben, brominated vegetable oil, and potassium bromate, as these five food additives are linked to cancer and DNA and organ damage.
If the bill becomes law, food products that contain these additives will either have to change their formula or they will not be allowed to be sold in California.
Aside from Skittles, Pez candy, and Campbell’s soups, other food products that are included on the state’s chopping block are Hot Tamales Candy, Sour Patch Kids, Sun Drop Soda, and Old El Paso Sauce, among many others.
“Californians shouldn’t have to worry that the food they buy in their neighborhood grocery store might be full of dangerous additives or toxic chemicals,” Gabriel said in a statement. “This bill will correct for a concerning lack of federal oversight and help protect our kids, public health, and the safety of our food supply.”
Gabriel told the Daily Mail that “the goal of the bill is to protect kids and their parents from harmful chemicals.”
Gabriel believes the bill is likely to have a far-reaching effect. He pointed out that companies would likely change their recipes in order to comply, rather than completely abandoning the large California market. He suggested that a change in the recipes for California would also likely extend to other states, saying that it is unlikely for the affected companies to “have one recipe in California and one in Oklahoma” for their products.
Gabriel noted that three of the five food additives identified in the bill (brominated vegetable oil, potassium bromate, and titanium dioxide) are already banned from food products in the European Union, so banning them in California is the logical move.
What is titanium dioxide?
Titanium dioxide is a naturally occurring powder used to prevent goods from caking and is often used as coloring. It was at the center of a 2022 lawsuit filed in the Golden State last year alleging the popular candy Skittles were not fit to be eaten.
Titanium dioxide in Skittles
Jenile Thames, a resident of San Leandro, filed the lawsuit in Oakland, California in July 2022, claiming in court documents that Skittles contain “heightened levels” of titanium dioxide and people who consume the candies “are at heightened risk of a host of health effects for which they were unaware stemming from genotoxicity – the ability of a chemical substance to change DNA.”
Though Mars announced in February 2016 that it is “committed to phasing out” the titanium dioxide in its products, the lawsuit ― which is seeking class-action status ― points out that the chemical is still being used in Skittles today to create the candies’ wide array of artificial colors.
Mars does not comment on pending litigation, but the confectionery company said in a statement that its “use of titanium dioxide complies with FDA regulations.”
According to the FDA’s Code of Federal Regulations, titanium dioxide “may be safely used for coloring foods” but there are a number of limitations, such as the quantity of the color additive should not exceed 1% of the food’s weight.
In 2015, a German review of a previous study uncovered that titanium dioxide can build up in an individual’s blood, kidney, liver, and spleen.
What is Red 3?
Red 3 is a food dye utilized in many candies and other sugary snacks. Since the early 1980s, tests have revealed that the additive can cause cancer in lab animals in enormous doses, and has been connected to behavioral problems in kids. As a result, it was disallowed in cosmetic products in 1990, yet remains in a variety of foods and sweets, such as pastries and breakfast cereals.
What is brominated vegetable oil?
Brominated vegetable oil is a plant-derived compound that is used to bring together the components of citrus-flavored drinks. Unfortunately, long-term exposure to this chemical can be damaging to the central nervous system. This can lead to the emergence of chronic headaches, memory loss, and an inability to balance properly.
Brominated vegetable oil was previously used in Mountain Dew until its parent company Pepsi removed it from the soda’s formula in 2020. Sun Drop, a similarly flavored soda made by Keurig Dr Pepper, still uses it, as well as other budget soft drink brands. Outside of the United States, the additive has already been banned in the EU, India, and Japan.
What is propylparaben?
Propylparaben, which is derived from certain plants and insects and possesses anti-microbial and anti-fungal properties, is frequently used as a preservative in baking products. It is commonly found in heavily processed, pre-made baked goods like Weight Watchers’ line of baked desserts, which are aimed at individuals trying to lose weight.
Previous studies have indicated that Propylparaben may have adverse effects on fertility in mice, such as reducing sperm counts in males and disrupting estrogen development in females. As a result, some experts are concerned that it could pose similar risks to the endocrine systems of humans. However, despite these findings, the FDA still classifies Propylparaben as “generally recognized as safe”.
What is potassium bromate?
Potassium Bromate is a common ingredient in various baked goods, including the popular sugar cookie brand, Balducci’s. However, it has been banned in numerous countries such as the EU, Canada, and Brazil due to its links to the development of thyroid and kidney cancer. Despite this, it is still utilized in processed foods to help the dough rise higher.