The state's Senate Environmental Quality Committee set a Wednesday hearing on a bill that would affect the entire country's food system. Learn more.

July 11, 2023

2 Min Read
French macarons in different colors on a wooden serving board with powdered coloring

The bill to prohibit the use of five common food additives continues its swift passage through the California legislature. On June 28, AB 418 cleared the Senate Health Committee. Now, the bill is subject to a Senate Environmental Quality Committee hearing on Wednesday.

Brominated vegetable oil, potassium bromate, propylparaben, red dye No. 3 and titanium dioxide are subject to prohibition in the state. If passed, the law would go into effect Jan. 1, 2027—a recent change from the original date of Jan. 1, 2025. Manufacturing, selling, delivering, distributing, holding or offering for sale a product that contains any of these substances would be punished by a civil penalty.

The bill's author, Assemblymember Jesse Gabriel, stresses that these ingredients are banned in Europe. "AB 418 will not remove any products from the shelves, nor will it ban any product that California consumers enjoy," he said. "Products like Skittles continue to be sold in stores across Europe using safe alternatives."

Skittles have made colorful headlines, but countless foods will require reformulation and relabeling if sold in California. The ripple effect will extend nationally. Increased costs across nearly all sectors of the food industry will be required to meet the tight deadline. As food formulators know, maintaining product taste, flavor, texture, stability and other functional attributes is rarely accomplished by simply switching one ingredient for another.

Related:Could California save Americans from dangerous food additives?

A coalition of diverse food industry associations opposed the bill in a March 13 letter to Assemblymember Jim Wood, chair of Assembly Committee on Health. "Scientific regulators work through these processes and make determinations to establish recognized safe thresholds," the letter read. "Then, when appropriate and supported by peer-reviewed scientific evaluations, they require additional labels or removal from the market. Additionally, our comprehensive system requires ingredient labeling allowing consumers to make informed decisions."

Titanium dioxide and red dye No. 3 are currently being scrutinized by FDA, but comments on both are now closed. The request to revoke the color additive listing is under review.

Public sentiment, however, is strong. Former governor and sports and fitness icon Arnold Schwarzenegger recently endorsed AB 418 in his daily Pump Club newsletter and commented on the impact of headlines in social media. "For all of you who asked, I'm happy to support it," he wrote. "Things like this aren't partisan. They're common sense."

Support through the legislature has been substantial since the bill was introduced to the Assembly in February. It has since passed four hearings.

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This piece originally appeared on Food & Beverage Insider, a New Hope Network sister website. Visit the site for information on ingredients, product development and regulatory issues.

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