Authored by Assemblymember Jesse Gabriel (D-Woodland Hills), chair of the State Assembly Committee on Privacy and Consumer Protection, the California Food Safety Act (also known as AB 418) is the first law in the US to end the use of brominated vegetable oil, potassium bromate, propyl paraben, or Red Dye No. 3 from candy, cereal, soda and other processed food sold and manufactured in California. Titanium dioxide, which was included in the initial version of the bill, is not included in the California law.
Gabriel and Newsom, along with the bill’s co-sponsors, Environmental Working Group (EWG) and Consumer Reports cite the 2008 removal of all four food additives in the EU with the exception of Red Dye No. 3 in candied cherries as a precedent to the law's passing, in addition to existing studies that link the additives’ impact on health for adults and children, including hyperactivity, nervous system damage and increased risk of cancer.
“This bill will not ban any foods or products — it simply will require food companies to make minor modifications to their recipes and switch to safer alternative ingredients that they already use in Europe and so many other places around the globe," Gabriel elaborated in the issued statement.
"The Governor's signature today represents a huge step in our effort to protect children and families in California from dangerous and toxic chemicals in our food supply," he added.
EWG and Consumer Reports emphasized the impact of the bill on food and beverage products across the country, stating that “this groundbreaking law may affect food across the country, not just California, so all Americans will likely benefit from the ban. Given the size of the state’s economy, it is unlikely manufacturers will produce two versions of their product – one to be sold in California and one for the rest of the country. As many as 12,000 products may be affected, based on EWG’s Food Scores database.”
A similar bill in New York’s legislature introduced by Senator Brian Kavanagh (D-District 27) would also ban the same four additives in addition to titanium dioxide.
According to the groups’ statement, the safety of the additives have not been adequately reviewed “by the FDA for 30 to 50 years,” citing a lack of federal funding towards food chemical reviews.
“California has taken an important stand for food safety at a time when the FDA has failed to take action. Safer versions of food products that are available in other countries should be made available to U.S. consumers too,” Brian Ronholm, director of food policy, Consumer Reports said in the statement.
EWG has also signed on to two additional petitions revoking the approval of titanium dioxide and Red Dye No. 3, that are being reviewed by the FDA.
“These petitions offer the FDA a chance to step up to the plate and do its job to protect Americans from toxic food chemicals,” said Scott Favor, senior vice president, government affairs, EWG, in the statement.
National Confectioners Association states the law will “create confusion around food safety”
National Confectioners Association’s (NCA) response emphasizes that the law usurps existing regulatory processes and policies to promote a safe food supply, stating that it “replaces a uniform national food safety system with a patchwork of inconsistent state requirements created by legislative fiat that will increase food costs.”
NCA continued, “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 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.”
In April, a collective letter written by industry trade groups to unanimously oppose the initial passing of AB 418 include Consumer Brands Association, American Chemistry Council, International Association of Color Manufacturers, California Grocers Association, California Manufacturers & Technology Association, California Chamber of Commerce, California Retailers Association and Chemical Industry Council of California, among others.
In the letter, the organizations emphasized its support of both California’s and FDA’s safety evaluations for the four additives which rely on peer-reviewed scientific evaluations that establish safety thresholds as reported previously by FoodNavigator-USA.