C.California legislators are considering an invoice that could potentially ban the sale of Skittles and several other popular snacks because research shows that some of the chemicals they contain are toxic.
The bill would force companies to change the recipes for some beloved candies, including M&Ms and Nerds candies, or to clamp down and remove their items from the California market. It’s unclear if the bill will gain momentum, but if it passes, California would become the first state to ban specific food additives.
The ban would apply to five chemicals: Red Dye #3, Titanium Dioxide, Potassium Bromate, Brominated Vegetable Oil, and Propylparaben, which are typically used as preservatives, colorants, and texture enhancers. The chemicals are approved for consumption in the US by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), but all are banned in Europe due to safety concerns.
Some of the bill’s supporters believe that federal regulations have overlooked scientific research linking the chemicals to ailments including cancer, neurological problems and behavior problems in children.
This is what you should know.
What are the intentions behind the bill?
The assemblyman behind the bill, Jesse Gabriel, confesses that he loves candy, especially Skittles, and would definitely not support a bill to ban Skittles. That’s not the bill’s intent, he tells TIME. “This bill is about getting companies to change their recipes,” says Gabriel. “They still sell Skittles in Europe. They just removed the titanium dioxide, which is a very dangerous ingredient.”
As a father of three young children, Gabriel is concerned about additives such as these chemicals and mentions the risks to child development, reproductive problems and concerns about carcinogens and damage to immune system.
“Part of the reason we chose (these five) is because for each of them there is a safer alternative available,” says Gabriel.
Opposition to the bill has been strongest from trade associations, including the American Chemical Industry, the American Bakers Association and the California Chamber of Commerce. In a letter to the California Assembly committee on health, 11 groups wrote: “This measure usurps the comprehensive food safety and approval system for these five additives and predetermines ongoing evaluations.”
What are the potential risks of these chemicals?
Much of the research on these chemicals has shown potential health risks for animals, which scientists believe may apply to humans as well. In 1990, the FDA banned the use of red dye no. 3 in cosmetics, but continues to allow it in thousands of foods. potassium bromate it has been banned in the UK, India, Brazil, Canada and across Europe, for fears it could be carcinogenic. Although all of the chemicals proposed in the bill are FDA-approved, some of them, such as propylparaben and titanium dioxide, are restricted to making up 1% or less of the food composition.
“Several things on that list have been shown to have potentially harmful consequences,” Carolyn Slupsky, a professor of nutrition at the University of California, Davis, tells TIME, adding that while we weren’t aware of many of the risks when the chemicals came in through First time on the market, more information is now available.
“The government has to be willing to help fund research on these chemicals that people want to put in the food supply, or are already in the food supply, and start looking at them more carefully,” says Slupsky.
The FDA classifies many chemical additives as GRAS, or “Generally Recognized as Safe,” which allows their use. Gabriel criticizes the FDA’s review process, stating that most chemicals were never independently reviewed or were last reviewed decades ago. He FDA process to review food additives involves collecting data directly from manufacturers and rejecting or approving additives for specific uses, but some researchers believe decades of data on certain additives should be reviewed. reassessed.
“These companies will have to spend some of their money finding alternative ways to preserve their product,” says Slupsky. “A lot of it is just for (food) coloring.”
Recent research has also raised alarm bells that ultra-processed foods increase the risk of various health problems, including obesity, high blood pressure, diabetes and dementia. “It’s not just that everyone sits on their butts and eats French fries,” says Slupsky. “I think we need to start looking more carefully at the types of food we eat.”
Gabriel is hopeful that as companies begin to recognize the social responsibility they owe consumers, trade associations will also face pressure to push for new alternatives. “If this happens, it will certainly have an impact beyond California,” he says. “No one is going to walk away from the California market; is very large.”
The bill will enter committee hearings next month, starting April 11.
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