Skittles, icing, citrus soda could change due to California bill

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A bill in the California State Assembly would ban the use of five chemicals from usage in food.

The five — titanium dioxide, potassium bromate, propylparaben, brominated vegetable oil and red dye No. 3  —  help preserve, color and improve the appearance or taste of food. A ban could jar Skittles and Campbell’s soup.

All five chemicals are present in American versions of various food products. Three of the substances, titanium dioxide, brominated vegetable oil and potassium bromate, have already been banned from food by European regulators.

The Food and Drug Administration banned red dye No. 3 in 1990 from use in cosmetics. On other additives, the agency disagrees with its European counterparts. 

As for why these five substances are considered unsafe by some, Consumer Reports writes that:

• Brominated vegetable oil has been linked to neurological, behavioral, developmental, reproductive, heart, liver and thyroid problems.

• Potassium bromate has been linked to cancer.

• Propylparaben has caused reproductive issues and hormonal disruption in lab-tested animals.

• Red dye No. 3 has caused cancer and tumors in animals and has been linked to hyperactivity and other issues in children.

• Titanium dioxide has been linked to digestive problems.

California Assembly Bill 418 aims to correct what advocates see as a lack of federal oversight.

If the bill becomes law, manufacturers would have to create new recipes for products that use the five chemicals. These changes could be implemented nationwide.

“It is unlikely they’ll have one recipe in California and one in Oklahoma,” Assemblyman Jesse Gabriel, Woodland Hills Democrat and sponsor of the bill told the Daily Mail.

Industry advocates have not taken the bill lying down. 

A coalition of groups, including the National Confectioners Association, American Bakers Association, California Grocers Association, American Chemistry Council and California Chamber of Commerce, sent a letter to Jim Wood, Healdsburg Democrat and chairman of the California Assembly Committee on Health, expressing their concerns.

“The current regulatory environment provides significant scientific oversight where qualified regulators review hazards and risks. These regulatory bodies with scientific professionals have responsibility over all food additives, and these scientifically based regulatory processes should be allowed to continue without second-guessing their outcomes,” the letter reads.

A separate letter solely by the National Confectioners Association to the bill’s sponsors points out existing safety margins, as well as the candy industry’s role in the California economy.

“In California, the confectionary industry represents a $7.7 billion economic output, pays $1.8 billion in wages and supports 106,351 total jobs in the state,” the NCA pointed out.

FDA regulations establishing how much of each substance can be used on certain products are sufficient, the NCA argued.

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