A bill introduced to the California state legislature would ban five food additives already banned by the European Union. The additives targeted by Assembly Bill 418 are either already known to cause health problems* or are linked to health problems/cannot be ruled out as potential health hazards when consumed. More specifically, Assembly Bill 418 would ban the manufacture, sale and distribution of foods containing red dye No. 3, titanium dioxide, potassium bromate, brominated vegetable oil, propylparaben — starting in 2025.
UPDATE: On May 15, 2023 the California State Assembly approved the first-in-the-nation bill to ban the manufacture, sale and distribution of foods containing the additives: Red dye No. 3, Titanium dioxide, Potassium Bromate, Brominated vegetable oil, (BVO), Propylparaben. The bill now moves on to the California Senate.
The legislation outlined the five chemicals and their potential health hazards as follows:
- Red Dye No. 3 has been linked to cancer and behavioral problems in children. It is found in more than 2,000 food products, including many types of candy, cookies and other foods marketed to children. In 1990, the FDA banned many uses of the dye, citing cancer risks. Since 1994, the European Union allowed Red No. 3 to be used in candied and cocktail cherries only.
- Brominated vegetable oil can build up in the body and has been linked to several health harms, including to the nervous system. It is prohibited in the EU from use in processed foods.
- Potassium bromate has been linked to cancer but has not been reviewed for safety by the FDA since 1973. It has been prohibited from use in processed food in the EU since 1990 and since then has been on California’s Proposition 65 list of chemicals that may cause cancer.
- Propyl paraben has not been thoroughly reviewed for safety by the FDA. It has been linked to harm to the hormone and reproductive systems, including decreased sperm counts. It has been prohibited from use in food in the EU since 2006 but is still used as a preservative in the US.
- Titanium dioxide has been linked to damage to our DNA and harm to the immune system. In 2022, the EU prohibited it from use in food offered for sale, but it is still allowed in food sold in the US. It is found in popular snacks like Skittles.
*From CFL’s book “The Food Hacker’s Handbook: A Guide to Breaking the Processed Foods and Additives Addiction“…
Red Dye #3: (Erythrosine)
Where Found: This dye can be found in a variety of processed foods including candies, bakery goods, sausage casings, maraschino cherries, fruit roll-ups and other snack foods, frozen meals and desserts, to name a few. May also be present in over the counter and prescription drugs and chewing gum.
Red Flags: Red Dye #3 may trigger breathing difficulties and other allergic reactions in sensitive individuals. May be genotoxic. Scientific animal studies have linked this dye with thyroid tumors.
Bromine*/ Bromate*/ Bromide* : Potassium Bromate; Brominated Vegetable Oil (BVO) *Bromine is a base element for which bromide and bromate can be formed from.
Where Found: Bromine is a preservative used in certain processed foods to prevent them from going stale and to extend their shelf life.
Potassium Bromate is derived from bromine and is most commonly present in commercial breads, bread products (including fast food breads and buns), and processed baked goods.
Brominated Vegetable Oil (BVO) contains bromine and is used in certain processed food items to maintain consistency and prevent separation. It is commonly found in processed citrus- and fruit-flavored drinks including juices, health drinks, sports drinks and soda.
Red Flags:May cause nausea or diarrhea in some people. Other adverse reactions may include headaches, confusion, swelling, skin problems, fatigue, memory loss, ulcers, loss of muscle coordination. In some cases excessive intake may lead to neurological or reproductive problems. Bromates have been linked in animal studies with the development of cancerous tumors. Potassium Bromate, for example, is a known toxin and carcinogen (linked with thyroid and kidney cancers in animal studies). This additive competes with iodine in the body and may be a concern for people with iodine deficiencies and hypothyroidism. Brominated Vegetable Oil (BVO) contains bromine (a substance also used as a flame retardant) which can build up in fatty tissues. Animal studies have linked bromine to the development of heart lesions. Bromine has also been linked with neurological impairment, reduced fertility, changes in thyroid hormones, and early onset puberty. Recent studies have linked excessive use of BVO to skin lesions, nerve disorders, depression, irritability, confusion, cognitive problems, slurred speech, and memory loss. Banned in some countries.
Propylparaben (Propyl ester of p-Hydroxybenzoic acid…a derivative of Benzoic Acid; Propyl P-Hydroxy-Benzoate; Paraben)
Where Found: Synthesized from Benzoic Acid, the synthetic version of this naturally-occurring antimicrobial preservative is used to extend shelf life and prevent mold (also used as a flavoring agent) and can be found in processed foods such as breakfast cereals, bakery products, chocolate and cocoa products, tortillas, jellies, jams, processed meat products, beverages, snacks and candies. (May also be present in pharmaceutical medications.)
Red Flags: Some people may develop hyper-sensitivity or allergic reactions to this chemical when ingested as a food additive—this is especially true for those people with sensitivities to Benzoic Acid. Symptoms may include swelling of lips, face, tongue, throat, numbing of the mouth, difficulty swallowing, breathing difficulties, esp. for people with asthma and other respiratory conditions, (Propyl para-hydroxybenzoate may be especially hazardous for asthmatics), dermatitis, skin sensitivity, urticaria, rash, itching, edema (and subsequent weight gain). Parabens are highly controversial due to recent scientific study findings suggesting a link with possible carcinogenicity, estrogenic, and reproductive effects.
Where Found: This additive is present in processed foods containing nanoparticles common on grocery shelves, and in fast food and conventional restaurant foods. Frequently unlabeled in U.S. foods (though nanoparticles are required to be labeled in EU countries) this additive is used as a white pigment food coloring for processed foods such as skim milk, white cheese, yogurt, frosting/frosted foods, icing, candies, snack foods, mayonnaise, salad dressings, powdered sugar, marshmallows, pudding, breakfast toaster pastries, and non-diary coffee creamer, among many others. It is also commonly used in medicines and toothpaste.
Red Flags: Scientists are still determining the health safety and potential health hazards of nanoparticles in food. According to the professional organization American Society of Safety Engineers, ingested nanoparticles can be absorbed through small nodules in intestinal tissue (Peyer’s Plaques) that are part of the immune defense system. If nanoparticles enter the digestive system and proceed into the bloodstream, they can potentially move throughout the body and cause damage. Additionally, researchers have stated that, “Nanoparticles may also accumulate in certain organs, disrupt and impair biological, structural and metabolic processes and weaken the immune system.”
Animals studies have demonstrated that nanoparticle ingestion changes the structure of the lining of the intestinal walls. Among other potential problems, such structural changes hold the potential for over-absorption of harmful compounds. Additionally, research has indicated there are potential adverse health effects of nanoparticles on respiratory and cardiovascular systems, and studies of manufactured nanoparticles have demonstrated toxic properties. Among other health-related issues, researchers are studying the potential link between Titanium Dioxide nanoparticles in food and an increased risk for inflammatory bowel diseases such as Crohn’s disease and colitis.
For more information on the harmful effects of these and other food additives, get our book here:
The Food Hacker’s Handbook: A Guide to Breaking the Processed Foods and Additives Addiction