What to Know About the 4 Food Additives Banned by California

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Were skittles really banned in the state of California? Actually, no. But when a listener asked this question, I thought it was the perfect opportunity to talk about food safety and what ingredients were actually banned.

A bill was recently passed regarding food safety. The thing is, titanium dioxide, the culprit ingredient in Skittles, was pretty much immediately struck from the bill. I think this bit of misinformation is a really good example of why we need to be discerning on the internet. We’ve got big-name accounts pushing completely false information and garnering tons of shares.

So today, we’re doing a deep dive into the bill, AB 418, that was introduced and recently signed by the governor of California. The bill bans four additives: brominated vegetable oil, potassium bromate, propylparaben, and red dye three. This bill was a joint venture between the Environmental Working Group and Consumer Reports.

So what’s the truth about what was banned with this bill and why? Let’s dive into it!

In this episode, we discuss:

  • Nervous system, thyroid, and reproduction repercussions behind BVO

  • Why companies continue to ship products to the US that are ridden with toxins banned in other countries (and they have formulations for safer alternatives)

  • The issue with the FDA’s regulatory protocols

  • The incongruity in red dye three regulation

How Bill AB418 Came to Be

This bill was a joint venture between the environmental working group and consumer reports. I have talked a lot on my social media about how I don’t love the environmental working group and the way they rate products. I don’t think it should be something you should rely on.

The environmental working group is a lobbyist for environmental causes and toxins regulation. They’re amazing. They were the ones who pushed the toxin-free cosmetic act that I worked to push back in 2020 in California. They’re phenomenal! This bill is one of their initiatives.

This is what we call a double bill. Each house had to pass it, and it had to go to two separate committees. It had to go to a health committee and an environmental toxins committee. There was massive opposition throughout this process by consumer brands, food manufacturers, and other corporate interest groups.

The 4 Ingredients Banned in AB418 (+ a bonus)

1. Brominated Vegetable Oil (BVO)

BVO is used primarily in citrus-flavored sodas, orange-flavored sports drinks, and also some fruit-punch beverages. The whole reason for using this ingredient is to prevent separation during distribution; it keeps everything together in the liquid. There are a lot of studies that show it harms the nervous system, thyroid, and reproductive system.

BVO is banned in the European Union, India, and China. However, companies are already making the same products with different safer ingredients and selling them in other countries, then they’re selling the toxic crap to Americans. How is that fair?

These companies already have the formulas to make them safer. They absolutely will not change their formula to be good people. They will continue selling the toxic versions in the United States by choice. Why? Because it’s cheaper.

2. Potassium Bromate

You’re mostly going to find potassium bromate in breads or baked goods. It’s been found to be carcinogenic. It’s banned in the European Union, Argentina, Brazil, Nigeria, South Korea, Peru, Sri Lanka, China, and India.

Even though it’s allowed in the United States, I want to point out that the last time the FDA reviewed this ingredient for safety was in 1973. That’s another theme that you’ll see throughout this episode. Whether it’s toxins regulation or food regulation, it’s been DECADES since the FDA reviewed the safety of these ingredients that are “allowed” in our food.

3. Propylparaben

These are used as preservatives and found in processed foods like tortillas or other baked goods. But it’s also in shelf staples, like icing. Anytime you see those pre-made packets of icing, you’ll probably notice propylparaben listed as an ingredient.

This has been banned in the European Union since 2006 because it is a known endocrine disruptor that has reproductive effects at all levels tested. The last time the United States took a look at whether or not this ingredient was safe was in 1977. Yikes.

4. Red Dye 3

If you’re a parent, I’m sure you have heard about artificial dyes and their neurological impact on kids. Red dye number 3 is a synthetic dye derived from petroleum and it’s used to color food products. It can be found in everything from candy, cereal, syrup, fruit snacks, cake and cookie icing, medication and really any food that is colored.

There’s an interesting history here. It’s not allowed in the European Union except for cocktails or candied cherries, but it comes with a warning label that it causes hyperactivity in children. In 1990, the United States banned red dye number 3 from being allowed in cosmetics or any externally applied drug, like eyeshadow or lipstick. But you can eat it? It makes no sense whatsoever! The FDA hasn’t reviewed the safety of it in food since 1982.

BONUS: Titanium Dioxide

Titanium Dioxide was stripped from the bill and is not going to be banned, but it was in the original. Titanium Dioxide is used as a white colorant, so you’re going to find it a lot in yogurt, candy, Kraft cheddar cheese, tampons, etc.

The main issue with titanium dioxide in food is that it often contains nanoparticles, which can lead to damage of DNA and that eventually leads to cancer. The European Union just banned titanium dioxide in food in 2022. All the companies, including Skittles, who are selling food in the European Union have been required to take titanium dioxide out of their ingredients. Again, they already have a recipe to sell their products without it. The FDA in the United States has not taken a look at the safety of titanium dioxide in food products since 1966.

All 5 of these ingredients should have been an absolute slam dunk, no brainer to ban in foods being sold in America. Ultimately, the bill that passed bans BVO, Potassium Bromate, Propylparaben & Red Dye #3, but does not ban Titanium Dioxide.

Scientific Evidence

Studies indicate that synthetic food dyes are associated with adverse neurobehavioral outcomes in children, and children vary in sensitivity to synthetic food dyes. They did multiple challenge studies where they removed food dyes from kids’ diets, then reintroduced them and focused on the behavior aspect. Those studies demonstrated that some kids are more adversely affected by synthetic food dyes than others.

Animal studies indicate synthetic food dyes affect memory learning changes in neurotransmitters. They cause microscopic changes in the brain structure. When the FDA approved synthetic dyes, their acceptable daily intake in food for synthetic food dyes was based on 35 to 70-year-olds. The studies weren’t designed to detect the type of behavioral issues that have been observed in children.

I mean, companies are already making safer versions for other countries! It’s not a leap to think they could just roll those safer recipes out to the rest of the U.S.

So, to wrap it all up, no, Skittles are not banned in California.. however, if Titanium Dioxide had been a part of the ban, they would have had to change their recipe in order to sell Skittles in Calfiornia . I hope you start to become more aware of these ingredients in your food and search for alternatives because they are out there!

Related Episodes:

Episode 26: Detox Your Makeup: My Truly Clean Cosmetics Must-Haves

Episode 1: What the F*ck is an Endocrine Disruptor, Anyway?

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