The “Skittles Ban” Passed in California, Outlawing Dangerous Chemicals in Over 12,000 Food Products

California has passed a new law that requires candy companies to alter their recipes within three years or face fines. Governor Gavin Newsom recently signed this legislation, known as the “Skittles ban,” which prohibits the use of four common additives associated with health concerns such as cancer, disease, and mood disorders.

Risking Fines

The bill allows food companies a three-year grace period to remove these additives from their products or risk fines of up to $10,000. While supporters applaud this law as a significant step in safeguarding public health, some food companies argue that it is confusing and could lead to higher food prices.

The four additives that have been banned are brominated vegetable oil, potassium bromate, propylparaben, and red dye No. 3. These additives are present in approximately 12,000 products sold in California, according to the Environmental Working Group.

Initially, the ban also included titanium dioxide, found in products like Skittles (hence the nickname “Skittles ban”), but the ban on titanium dioxide was removed in September.

Following the EU’s Footsteps

The European Union had previously prohibited these additives in foods, prompting companies to make necessary adjustments. This Californian ban will become effective in January 2027, with potential fines for companies engaged in manufacturing, distributing, or selling products with the banned components.

Similar bans are under consideration in other states like New York. Governor Newsom even demonstrated his support for the law by attaching a packet of Skittles to the signed document, saying, “This is demonstrable proof that the food industry is capable of maintaining product lines while complying with different public health laws, country-to-country.”

Protecting Families

Jesse Gabriel, a Democrat representing Woodland Hills who proposed the bill, said, “The Governor’s signature today represents a huge step in our effort to protect children and families in California from dangerous and toxic chemicals in our food supply.”

Gabriel also said, “It is unacceptable that the US is so far behind the rest of the world when it comes to food safety.”

Brian Ronholm, the director of food safety at Consumer Reports, praised California’s move, highlighting the long-standing risks associated with the banned chemicals. Ronholm emphasized, “Safer versions of food products that are available in other countries should be made available to US consumers too.” 

Modifying Recipes

Democrats in California clarified that their goal is not to outright ban the sale of any foods but rather to encourage manufacturers to modify their recipes.

Scientific studies have shown that Red No. 3, a food dye found in many candies, can cause cancer in laboratory animals at high doses and has been linked to behavioral issues in children. Although the US banned it from cosmetic products in the 1990s, it is still present in many food products.

The Dangerous Chemicals

One of the additives facing the ban, brominated vegetable oil, which is derived from plants and used for citrus flavoring, is believed to harm the nervous system after prolonged exposure. It has also been associated with chronic headaches, memory loss, and impaired balance. Mountain Dew, a popular soda, used to contain this ingredient until its removal by parent company Pepsi in 2020.

Propylparaben, commonly used as a preservative in baked goods, has been linked to fertility issues in mice due to its disruption of estrogen in females and its reduction of sperm counts in males.

Potassium bromate, another banned additive found in many baked goods, has been linked to thyroid and kidney cancers. It is often used in processed foods to make the dough rise.

The Candy Companies Speak Out

The National Confectioners Association, representing candy companies, voiced its concerns, stating that decisions should be based on scientific research rather than soundbites.

They argued that the FDA should evaluate the safety of food ingredients and additives instead of relying on inconsistent state requirements, which they believe will increase food costs.

An NCA spokesperson also said the law, “replaces a uniform national food safety system with a patchwork of inconsistent state requirements created by legislative fiat that will increase food costs.”

Public Support

In response, people have voiced overwhelming support for this law meant to protect the health of citizens despite the threat of price increases.

One social media user commented, “Well done! It’s a start! Our food is poisoning us but the FDA is beholden to the conglomerates that produce toxic poisons.”

A second user said, “Food companies have alternative recipes but are pumping up preservatives to save money and increase sales via shelf life,” and a third user simply said, “They need to do this nationwide.”

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