Food chemicals ban moves forward in California Assembly

The California Assembly Health Committee Tuesday was scheduled to consider Assembly Bill 418, introduced in February by Assembly member Jesse Gabriel, D-San Fernando Valley, which seeks to ban five harmful food additives which are already prohibited from use in the European Union.

The bill was one of about 25 heard by the Committee but without a quorum present, meaning a “do pass” recommendation is pending.

If approved, the bill would ban Red Dye No. 3 and some other common additives found in hundreds of foods. And such a ban by California could impact other states.

Powerful consumer and environmental organizations, Consumer Reports and the Environmental Working Group are helping guide the California bill. The US Food and Drug Administration would likely have to prioritize food chemical issues if California tastes the ban.

The chemicals included in the bill are:

If the bill was enacted, California would become the first state to ban toxic chemicals from food. All five of these food chemicals are permitted in processed food offered for sale in the United States but are prohibited for sale in the European Union, with the narrow exception of Red 3 in candied cherries.

The FDA does not have a legal requirement to re-evaluate the safety of food chemicals once they are allowed in processed food. Most of the food chemicals in the bill have not been thoroughly assessed for safety in more than a decade despite recent studies raising serious health concerns.

After the Assembly Health Committee, AB418 goes to the Assembly Environmental Safety and Toxic Materials Committee.

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