California Becomes the First State to Ban Four Common Food Additives
With the swipe of a pen, California Governor Gavin Newsom starts the California Food Safety Act countdown to a 2027 statewide ban on four popular food additives.
Starting January 1, 2027, companies manufacturing, selling, delivering, holding, or offering food products for sale in California must comply with the newly ratified California Food Safety Act (AB 418), which prohibits the use of red dye 3, propylparaben, brominated vegetable oil, and potassium bromate. The law allows the California Attorney General or other local prosecutors to bring civil actions against any person or entity for violations, with civil penalties costing as much as $5,000 for a first violation and $10,000 for subsequent violations.
AB 418 was passed with overwhelming and bipartisan backing, with supporters pointing to foreign country regulation of the identified food additives, including the European Union, which has already banned their use. Of additional consideration, proponents cited studies identifying potential negative health outcomes linked to the additives. While red dye 3 remains an FDA-approved color additive for food and ingestible drugs, it has been prohibited in the United States for use in cosmetics and externally-applied drugs and as a pigment form called "lakes" in food, drugs, and cosmetics, since 1990. Opponents have argued that AB 418 is unnecessarily disruptive, given the federal government oversight of food additives and, with support from other international scientific bodies, the additives continue to be deemed safe for consumption. Indeed, the FDA currently has a color additive petition under review that proposes to repeal the color additive regulations providing for the use of FD&C Red No. 3 in foods (including dietary supplements) and as part of ingested drugs. The law potentially sets up a legal challenge on federal preemption grounds.
As originally introduced in February 2023, AB 418 would have included titanium dioxide ("TiO2") among the prohibited additives. Inclusion of TiO2 attracted national attention to the issue and earned the bill the title of the "Skittles Ban." TiO2 is a common food additive found in coffee creamers, sauces, and candies. The additive was removed from the list shortly before revised AB 418 was passed by the California legislature.
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