Bill Banning Chemicals Not Meant to Keep Skittles ‘Off the Shelves’

  • The lawmaker who proposed a bill to ban chemicals in food like Skittles told Insider he is not trying to ban the products themselves.
  • California Assemblyman Jesse Gabriel said the purpose of AB418 was to force manufacturers to tweak recipes.
  • It comes after the EU banned certain additives like titanium dioxide found in popular candies.

The lawmaker who sponsored a bill that would ban chemicals found in a slew of food products, including candies like Skittles, said it isn’t meant to “pull items off the shelves,” but instead to force companies to tweak their recipes.

California Assemblyman Jesse Gabriel told Insider that AB418 — which would prohibit the sale, manufacture, and distribution in California of any food containing titanium dioxide, No. red dye. 3, potassium bromate, propylparaben, and brominated vegetable oil — would be similar to a recently passed EU law that bans certain additives from products sold there.

“The idea is just to get these manufacturers to make really small changes to their recipes to take out these toxic chemicals from the food,” Gabriel told Insider.

Titanium dioxide gives colors a brighter appearance and is commonly found in paints, plastics, and adhesives. It’s also associated with alterations to DNA and digestive tract issues.

Mars Inc., the company that manufactures Skittles, promised to stop using titanium dioxide in 2016, as Insider previously reported. But the chemical is still listed as an ingredient and last July a California man filed a lawsuit against the company for continuing to use the chemical and putting consumer health at risk. That lawsuit has since been dismissed.

Titanium dioxide, also known as Ti02, is also included in other popular candies, like Nerds and Trolli gummies, according to NBC. Gabriel, who is a father of three, told Insider he only wants to protect children and consumers in California.

“There’s strong science that connects these chemicals to cancer, reproductive issues, developmental and behavioral issues in kids,” Gabriel said. “When I saw that all of these other countries have banned these chemicals and no items are coming off the shelf, but they’re just changing, [and] they’re making these products without these dangerous chemicals…it was really shocking to me that the US is so far behind the rest of the world.”

Health advocates have also raised concerns about red dye No. 3 —which researchers say is linked to decreased attention in children, CNN reported. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) barred the dye from cosmetics in the 1990s, but not food, according to KSAT-TV, a Texas television station.

One mother told the outlet that she refrained from giving her children foods with additives because she was concerned “about the long-term effects, neurologically and developmentally.”

Gabriel said that he’s received good feedback about the bill from parents. But, as The Washington Post reported, a coalition of food industry groups is already pushing back.

In a March 13 letter addressed to the chairman of the California Assembly committee on health, the coalition wrote that the US federal government already has a “comprehensive food safety process” in place.

“In addition, California has several laws that require chemicals from foods, attaching warning labels, and checking alternatives if those food additives are unsafe or expose consumers to allergies,” the coalition wrote in the letter. “All five of these additives have been thoroughly reviewed by the federal and state systems and many international scientific bodies and continue to be deemed safe.”

According to Gabriel, if the bill passes, the impact will go beyond his home state.

“It probably means that they would make changes that will benefit kids and families here in California, but also kids and families in other states,” he told Insider. “I don’t think they’re going to have one recipe for California and a different recipe for Oklahoma.”

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