California Governor Gavin Newsom has signed a landmark bill aimed at banning the use of Red Dye No. 3 and other potentially harmful food additives in consumer products. This move makes the state the first in the country to prohibit the use of ingredients found in many popular candies, beverages, and other food items, as reported by CNN.
The state has become the first in the United States to ban the use of ingredients contained in many popular candies, beverages, and other food items, according to the Environmental Working Group, a nonprofit environmental organization that co-authored the law along with Consumer Reports.
Assembly Bill 418, known as the "California Food Safety Law," introduced by Assembly members Jesse Gabriel and Buffy Wicks in February, bans the manufacture, sale, and distribution of food products containing Red Dye No. 3, potassium bromate, brominated vegetable oil, or propylparaben in California.
Potassium bromate is added to bakery products to help dough rise and strengthen it. In some beverages, brominated vegetable oil emulsifies citrus flavorings, preventing them from separating. Propylparabens are used for antimicrobial preservation of food products.
According to the Eat Well Guide directory prepared by the Environmental Working Group, Red Dye No. 3 is used as an ingredient in nearly 3,000 products, including candies like Skittles, Nerds, and Trolli Gummi, protein shakes, quick-cook rice and potatoes, and boxed cake mixes.
Governor Newsom pointed out the availability of Skittles in the European Union as "a clear example that the food industry can maintain a product line while complying with various health laws."
This step by Newsom brings the United States closer to food production conditions similar to those in the European Union, where these chemical substances are banned due to scientific studies demonstrating significant health risks, including an increased risk of cancer, behavioral problems in children, harm to the reproductive system, and damage to the immune system.
"The signing of this bill is a positive step forward for these four food additives until the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) reviews and establishes updated national safety levels for these additives," said California Governor Gavin Newsom.
The reevaluation of the safety of food ingredients, as stated by an FDA representative, "as new relevant data become available, is an important aspect of the FDA's program on chemical substances in food products and a key part of our mission to ensure the safety of food products." According to him, "the FDA has a continuous program to analyze the impact of new data on food chemicals. Based on an analysis of new data, the FDA is working on proposing changes to our regulations to revoke the approval of the use of brominated vegetable oil as a food ingredient."
A representative of the Food and Drug Administration noted that regulatory agencies around the world have different legal authorities and regulatory programs, and approval of a particular substance in different jurisdictions may vary.
"There are, for example, color additives that are allowed for use in Europe and other countries but are not allowed in the United States," he noted.
The food safety law will not take effect until 2027, according to Newsom, "providing ample time for brands to reformulate their recipes to avoid the use of these harmful chemical substances. California residents will still be able to access their favorite foods and enjoy them with greater confidence in their safety."
The National Confectioners Association, a trade organization based in Washington, D.C., noted that "Newsom's approval of this bill will undermine consumer trust and create confusion about food safety." The association operates independently of the Food and Drug Administration and has called on the FDA to express its opinion on this matter.
Currently, these chemical substances can be used in food products in the United States due to a loophole in the FDA's Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act called the "Generally Recognized as Safe" (GRAS) rule, which allows manufacturers to use ingredients in the form and quantity that the FDA has previously recognized as safe.
Given the scale of California's economy, as stated in the Consumer Reports press release, "this innovative law could impact food products across the country, not just in California, so all Americans are likely to benefit from the ban, making it unlikely that manufacturers will produce two versions of their product—one for sale in California and another for the rest of the country."
In the meantime, if you want to avoid consuming Red Dye No. 3, check the ingredient list for FD&C Red #3, and for medications, look for the dye in the "inactive ingredients" section.