California State Assembly approves ban on 5 toxic food chemicals says linked to cancer

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STATEWIDE – The California State Assembly approved, Monday, a ban on the manufacture, sale, or distribution of any food product in California containing five toxic food chemicals commonly found in citrus-flavored soft drinks, baked goods, candies and other products. 

AB-418 co-sponsors, Consumer Reports and the Environmental Working Group, say brominated vegetable oil, potassium bromate, propyl paraben, Red Dye 3, and titanium dioxide are linked to health harms including cancer, reproductive issues, and behavioral and developmental issues in children.

Worldwide Restrictions

The European Union (EU), Japan, India, Brazil, Canada and Nigeria have banned all or some of these ingredients.

“It’s unacceptable that the U.S. is so far behind the rest of the world when it comes to banning these dangerous additives,” said AB-418 co-author Democratic State Assemblymember Jesse Gabriel. “We don’t love our children any less than they do in Europe and it’s not too much to ask food and beverage manufacturers to switch to the safer alternative ingredients that they already use in Europe and so many other nations around the globe.”

Consumer Reports says California would be the first state to impose such a prohibition if the bill is enacted.

“Despite the well-documented risks these five food chemicals pose to our health, the FDA has failed to take action to protect the public,” said the Consumer Reports director of food policy Brian Ronholm in an April 2023 news release. “By banning these dangerous chemicals from food, California can protect public health in the state and encourage manufacturers to make their products safer for the rest of the country.” 

Toxic ingredients and health harms

Brominated vegetable oil can be found in Mountain Dew, Gatorade, Fanta Orange and about 70 other sodas or beverages. It is used to help blend liquids that don’t otherwise blend easily, such as oil and water. Peer-reviewed studies conducted on rodents have linked the ingredient to neurological problems; thyroid, heart and liver problems; and behavioral, developmental and reproductive issues. 

Potassium bromate is found in Wonder bread, Chex Mix, Swanson dinners and 180 other products. Manufacturers use it to strengthen dough, make baked goods rise higher in the oven, and enhance texture. According to Consumer Reports the ingredient is linked to cancer.

Propyl paraben is found in Maybelline (L’Oréal), Neutrogena (Johnson & Johnson) Colgate toothpaste (Colgate-Palmolive) and more than 50 products in U.S. grocery stores, including many packaged corn tortillas, baked desserts, and cake icing. The ingredient extends the shelf life of packaged foods by preventing growth of mold and bacteria. Researchers have shown Propyl paraben to cause endocrine disruption and reproductive issues in lab animal testing. 

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Red Dye No. 3 is found in Maraschino cherries by The American Spoon, Red Hots candies by Ferrara Candy Company, Jell-O brand gelatin desserts by Kraft Heinz and thousands of food products now on shelves, including candies, baked goods, snacks, cereals, and sodas. It is a food coloring used to give a bright, cherry-red color. Researchers found that the ingredient causes cancer and thyroid tumors in lab animals. They also linked it to hyperactivity and other neurobehavioral effects in children. 

Titanium dioxide is found in Nestlé Crunch White Chocolate, Betty Crocker Whipped Frosting (General Mills), coffee creamers, baking decorations, and sauces. It is also a food coloring that makes food appear whiter than they otherwise would. Researchers linked Titanium dioxide to digestive tract problems. Europe banned the ingredient because scientists there could not rule out genotoxicity. This is the ability of the substance to damage genetic information in the body’s cells.

Committees in the State Senate will hear AB 418 in the coming weeks.

To read the full bill visit


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