California prepares food stamp ultimatum

  • California Assembly members Jesse Gabriel and Buffy Wicks recently proposed legislation that would ban food stamps from including certain ingredients, such as brominated vegetable oil, red dye 3, potassium bromate, propyl paraben and titanium dioxide, in their items.
  • The ingredients have been linked to various health problems.
  • While the law could result in some products being banned in California, Gabriel hopes companies will voluntarily change their formulas instead.
  • The bill attacks the FDA for having a “major loophole for approving chemicals,” and its first hearing is expected in April.
  • If passed, Gabriel hopes the law will push companies to change their recipes in every state, not just California.

A new bill proposed by the California state legislature could require certain food brands to change their ingredient lists or stop being sold in the state.

The bill, authored by MPs Jesse Gabriel and Buffy Wicks, both Democrats, would ban brands from including ingredients like brominated vegetable oil, red Dye 3, potassium bromate, propylparaben and titanium dioxide in their products.

The ingredients, all of which are banned in the European Union (EU), are found in sodas, processed foods, grains and candy. Several companies such as Coke and Pepsi have refrained from using the ingredients in their items. If passed, the law would make it law for other companies to follow suit.

The bill is unlikely to ban food stamps. Instead, Gabriel told news week he hopes brands will switch to healthier versions of the ingredients to follow the new protocol.

California Food Ingredients
People shop at a supermarket in Santa Monica, California on September 13, 2022. If new law is passed, some food manufacturers may need to remove certain ingredients from their products in order to continue selling them in California.
Apu Gomes/AFP/Getty

For example, in its US candy, Skittles includes titanium dioxide, an additive that improves color. But Skittles still sells its products in the EU, where the candies are modified so they don’t contain titanium dioxide.

“The idea here is that these companies change their recipes,” Gabriel said. “All these chemicals are banned in Europe, but [the companies] still sell in the EU by making minor changes to their recipes.

Gabriel said the ingredients listed in the bill have a multitude of health problems when consumed in dangerous amounts, with links to cancer, reproductive problems, and developmental and behavioral problems in children. He said there are “readily available, safer alternatives” for the ingredients without outright banning the products.

Some brands that use titanium dioxide in their ingredients are Goya, Skinnygirl, and Land O’Lakes.

news week reached out to Skittles, Goya and Skinnygirl for comment via a website contact form. news week emailed Land O’Lakes for comment.

If a company refuses to make the changes, it could be banned from selling in California, but Gabriel doesn’t expect that.

“Hypothetically it’s possible, but in practice the chances are practically zero,” he said. “They would voluntarily choose to leave a market of 40 million people. It makes no financial sense.”

Coke and Pepsi stopped using brominated vegetable oil in their sodas in 2014. Gabriel hopes other brands will follow suit under the new bill.

The bill targets the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), which accuses Gabriel of having a “huge loophole for approving chemicals.” A press release from Gabriel’s office states that many of the listed ingredients have never been independently evaluated by the FDA or have been reviewed years ago.

“Instead, these chemicals entered the country’s food supply through a loophole in federal law — known as GRAS, or “generally recognized as safe” — that was supposed to apply to common household ingredients like vinegar,” the release said. “As a result of this gap, chemical companies have introduced new substances into the food supply with little to no government oversight.”

An FDA spokesman said news week that it will not comment on proposed or pending legislation.

The bill was recently introduced and referred to the Assembly’s Health Committee. His first hearing is expected in April. If passed, Gabriel hopes the law will prompt companies to change their recipes in every state, not just California.

“Our expectation is that no products will come off the shelf and people will make minor changes to their recipes to remove toxic chemicals,” Gabriel said. California prepares food stamp ultimatum

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