Why California Has Banned So Many Food Additives

colorful gummy candies in a bowl
colorful gummy candies in a bowl - Ezumeimages/Getty Images

While people enjoy tasting the rainbow, artificially-colored foods don't typically offer a wealth of healthy ingredients. This is why the California legislature has adopted the California Food Safety Act, which prohibits four substances in food products meant for human consumption. Taking effect on January 1, 2027, the law asserts these four ingredients pose a health and safety issue to California residents, even though the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has not yet banned the additives.

Since the law will not go into effect for several years, consumers will not have to quickly hoard their favorite candies, fruit juices, or other food products with the prohibited ingredients. The long lead time allows companies to alter their formulas, repackage their products, and otherwise adapt their offerings to comply with the new California regulations.

Governor Gavin Newsom believes that the regulation will give consumers increased confidence in product safety. However, a bumpy road may lie ahead, as altering recipes, food formulations, and packaging takes time.

Read more: What These Imitation Foods Are Actually Made Of

What Are The Four Ingredients That The California Food Safety Act Prohibits?

colorful rainbow swirl lollypop
colorful rainbow swirl lollypop - Michael Warwick/Shutterstock

The four ingredients prohibited in the California Food Safety Act include brominated vegetable oil, potassium bromate, propylparaben, and red dye No. 3. Consumers might see these items in the colorful hues of some popular candies or the particular texture of a favorite snack or beverage.

Food additives, like colorful dyes, are used to make food more attractive, appealing, appetizing, and informative. However, red dye No. 3 in particular has been shown to increase hyperactivity and other behavioral problems in children, per a report released by the California Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment. Other studies have shown that red dye 3, as well as other synthetic dyes, cause cancer and other health problems, per the International Journal of Occupational and Environmental Health.

Sometimes found in citrus-flavored diet sodas, brominated vegetable oil will also be banned in California. The FDA also proposed a ban on this additive in November 2023, as recent studies have shown that it can be toxic to the nervous system and can cause thyroid problems over time. Potassium bromate, a textural enhancer in baked goods, will also be banned in California as it may also increase the risk of cancer, per the International Agency for Research on Cancer. Finally, the state will ban propylparaben, a preservative found in packaged foods from tortillas to baked goods, which is known to disrupt endocrine system functions and reduce female fertility, per the Journal of Applied Toxicology.

The California regulation supports the notion that the risks outweigh the benefits from having these additives in the food supply. Given the long lead time, it is assumed that the additives will be removed from California's food products by 2027. If a food product is determined to violate the new law, the civil penalty can result in monetary fines. The initial $5,000 fine is followed by a $10,000 penalty for each subsequent violation.

How Does The California Law Impact Consumers In Other States?

colorful hard candies
colorful hard candies - Fcafotodigital/Getty Images

While the California Legislature has a vested interest in protecting the health and safety of its constituents, the new law may impact food sold in other states. While these food additives will be banned in California, they're still legal in the rest of the United States, and this scenario may create consumer confusion as well as potentially increase food costs due to new obstacles in interstate commerce. However, it could also lead to safer food options being offered nationwide, as companies are forced to reformulate their products.

After the California law passed, an FDA spokesperson commented to NPR that the new legislation could negatively impact the country's food supply, specifically stating, "the U.S. depends on a unified food system," and that "the science-based FDA approach to oversight of the food system is the best way to ensure safety."

However, the federal government rarely moves quickly, and national change may not happen before the California law takes effect in 2027. For example, over 30,000 people have left comments on a public docket asking the FDA to ban red dye No. 3 in food products, with many pointing out that the FDA already banned the dye from cosmetic products in the '90s over cancer concerns. At the time, the agency said it would take steps to remove it from food products as well (per the New York Times), which is why supporters are celebrating California's steps to move ahead of the FDA and ban the additive.

Could companies sell one type of food in California and another version in other states? The concept is possible, but not a financially viable one. Given the long lead time, food brands should be exploring new formulations to comply with the new regulations.

Read the original article on Daily Meal.