California moves closer to banning ‘toxic’ chemicals in Skittles


California has moved one step closer to banning certain “toxic” ingredients commonly found in Skittles, Pez, Hot Tamales and many more popular candies.

The California Assembly last week overwhelmingly passed Assembly Bill 418, sending the legislation over to the state Senate.

Introduced by Democratic state Assemblyman Jesse Gabriel, the bill would ban the sale, manufacture and distribution of foods containing chemicals that have been linked to health risks, including cancer, behavioral problems in children, harm to reproductive health and damage to the immune system.

“Today’s strong vote is a major step forward in our effort to protect children and families in California from dangerous and toxic chemicals in our food supply,” Gabriel said in a statement. 

He added, “It’s unacceptable that the US is so far behind the rest of the world when it comes to banning these dangerous additives. We don’t love our children any less than they do in Europe, and it’s not too much to ask food and beverage manufacturers to switch to the safer alternative ingredients that they already use in Europe and so many other nations around the globe.”

The legislation would specifically ban foods that contain red dye No. 3, titanium dioxide, potassium bromate, brominated vegetable oil or propyl paraben.

Skittles candies
The law would band foods containing titanium dioxide, an ingredient in Skittles.
NurPhoto via Getty Images

These additives, which are ubiquitous in American candies, have already been banned in the European Union.

Red dye No. 3, a food coloring found in Pez, Hot Tamales and Sweethearts, has been linked to cancer.

So has titanium dioxide, an ingredient in Skittles, Nerds and Trolli gummies.

Gabriel has said the intent of his legislation is not to ban these candies outright but rather to force manufacturers to change their recipes.

Display of Pez candy dispensers
Red dye No. 3 food coloring is found in Pez, Hot Tamales and Sweethearts. It has been linked to cancer.
Getty Images

According to his office, the food additives targeted by AB 418 are a handful of thousands of chemicals added to food to make it last longer, taste better, and look more attractive to the eye.

Most of these chemicals have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration, and several are “generally recognized as safe” — even though there has been little oversight. 

Assembly Bill 418 is supported by the Environmental Working Group and Consumer Reports. 

“Californians deserve to know that the food they buy at the store doesn’t increase their risk of toxic chemical exposure that can jeopardize their health,” said Brian Ronholm, director of food policy at Consumer Reports.

“This bill helps close a troubling loophole in the FDA’s oversight of food chemicals that has allowed them to remain in food products despite recent studies documenting the threat they pose to our health. We applaud the Assembly for passing this first-in-the-nation legislation and urge the Senate to follow suit.” he said.

However, the food and beverage industry opposes the ban.

The American Chemistry Council, a trade group representing companies engaged in the business of chemistry, said in March that AB 418 is “an overly broad and unnecessary burden on consumers, manufacturers, and regulators.” 

The National Confectioners Association (NCA) also opposes the bill.

“Chocolate and candy are safe to enjoy, as they have been for centuries. We strongly oppose AB 418 because there is no evidence to support banning the ingredients listed in the bill,” the NCA said in March. 

“The ingredients that would be banned under this proposal have all been approved by the US Food and Drug Administration. Food safety is the number one priority for US confectionery companies, and we do not use any ingredients in our products that do not comply with the FDA’s strictest safety standards,” the group added.

The California State Senate is expected to take up the bill sometime before the legislative session ends on Sept. 14. 

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