On October 7, Governor Gavin Newsom signed AB 418, known as the California Food Safety Act, into law. The historic legislation bans the “manufacturing, selling, delivering, distributing, holding, or offering for sale” of food products that contain four additives currently found in about 12,000 candies, cereals, and sodas. The contentious bill nabbed attention in spring 2023 for possibly taking Skittles off corner store aisles. But after a revision, the final version of the bill does not include titanium dioxide, the chemical that would have made the rainbow-hued candy into the equation. Still, plenty of products will be affected by the ban including Peeps, most grocery store-made red velvet cupcakes, and more.
The prohibition by law of these additives makes California the first state to enact such a ban. According to Cal Matters, the European Union already outlawed the four additives in question: red dye 3, propylparaben, brominated vegetable oil, and potassium bromate. Consumer Reports co-sponsored the bill, and the nonprofit’s director of food policy Brian Ronholm told the non-profit news outlet that this law is “groundbreaking” and passed with “strong bipartisan support.”
What the ban actually means for United States pantry staples such as common cookies and juices is up to the companies. The law gives manufacturers until 2027 to alter recipes to account for the banned additives, all of which have been flagged for carcinogenic or neurotoxic correlations or endocrine and reproductive damage according to a petition submitted by 24 groups and scientists. Each is commonly found in a variety of items — for example, propylparaben can be found in several popular brands of trail mix, and potassium bromate can be found in some brands of tortillas.
That said, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has signed off on these substances for years — though the Environmental Working Group points out that these substances haven’t been reviewed in decades or in some cases, at all.
UC Davis food expert James Coughlin told Cal Matters that banning the chemicals is “unnecessary and unscientific.” The National Confectioners Association said this new law will confuse consumers and sack confidence in the industry. Still, Assemblyman Jesse Gabriel told the Los Angeles Times these ingredients are “nonessential” and the government is simply trying to get the companies to alter the recipes.