Food Dye Ban Proposed

By Jose Cervantes

California lawmakers have introduced a bill to ban certain artificial food dyes and additives from being served in public school cafeterias due to potential health risks.

Assembly Bill 2316 would prohibit Blue 1, Blue 2, Green 3, Red 40, Yellow 5, and Yellow 6, including titanium dioxide, an agent that enhances the white color and is used in food preservation.

Everyday food products affected by the prohibition include breakfast cereals, pastries, yogurt, candy, chips, sports beverages, and several others.

The food products affected by the bill would be prompted to switch to safer alternative food additives if they were to continue to be served in public schools; otherwise, schools would need to switch to brands that already do not have these additives.

Beet juice, turmeric, and pomegranate juice could be used to substitute the affected additives without changing the recipe of the products.

The bill states that elementary schools could sell products containing the listed additives if the sale occurred off the premises or at least half an hour after the school day ended.

“As a lawmaker, a parent, and someone who struggled with ADHD, I find it unacceptable that we allow foods with additives that are linked to cancer, hyperactivity, and neurological harms to be served to our children,” said Assemblymember Jesse Gabriel in a press release, who introduced the legislation.

Gabriel cites a 2021 study from the California Environmental Protection Agency that found artificial additives could lead to hyperactivity and behavior problems in children, especially those with ADHD.

If passed, it would be the first in the nation to ban these food additives.

“California has a responsibility to protect our students from chemicals that harm children and can interfere with their ability to learn.”

According to the Cleveland Clinic, Red 40 may contain trace amounts of benzene, which is known to cause cancer. However, small amounts of benzene may not pose a high risk.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has addressed many of consumers’ questions and concerns about food dyes in a FAQ page on its website.

The FDA states that color additives are safe to eat when products are in accordance with current FDA regulations. They acknowledge that some studies suggest that color additives may cause behavioral changes in some children and will continue to monitor their potential effects.

AB 418, or The California Food Safety Act, was passed in Oct. 2023 to ban food sales containing brominated vegetable oil, potassium bromate, propylparaben, and Red 3. Gabriel also introduced it, which will go into effect on Jan. 1, 2027.

The bill was known as the “Skittles ban,” as the original draft included the prohibition of titanium dioxide found in the candy. The final draft removed the chemical from the ban.

Some products have introduced alternative versions without food additives and other ingredients, including GMO-free. Red Vines Licorice Twists introduced a “Made Simple” lineup over two years ago, including being free of artificial colors and flavors.

The European Union mandates that food products containing Red 40, Yellow 5, and Yellow 6 must have a label alerting consumers of the additives since 2010. Yet, those additives are not prohibited in food sales.

In 2022, the EU banned titanium dioxide because of concerns that it may cause cancer and chromosomal damage.

New York and Washington state, among others, have also introduced bills to ban certain food additives.

AB 2316 is not a statewide consumer ban on artificial food additives. It will go into effect in Jan. 2025 if passed this year.

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