The California State Legislature has passed first-of-its-kind legislation to prohibit the use of four dangerous chemicals in processed foods and drinks sold in California. Authored by Assemblymember Jesse Gabriel (D-Encino), Assembly Bill (AB) 418 – the California Food Safety Act – would prohibit the manufacture, sale, or distribution in California of any food product containing Red Dye No. 3, Potassium Bromate, Brominated Vegetable Oil, or Propyl Paraben. The use of these chemicals has already been banned in the 27 nations in the European Union (EU) as well as many other countries due to scientific research linking them to significant health harms, including cancer, reproductive issues, and behavioral and developmental issues in children.
“Today’s bipartisan vote marks a huge step forward in our effort to protect children and families in California from dangerous and toxic chemicals in our food supply,” said Assemblymember Gabriel following the vote on Sept. 12. “It’s unacceptable that the U.S. is so far behind the rest of the world when it comes to food safety. This bill will not ban any foods or products – it simply will require food companies to make minor modifications to their recipes and switch to the safer alternative ingredients that they already use in Europe and so many other places around the globe.”
“Things like this aren’t partisan. They’re common sense,” said former Governor and sports and fitness icon Arnold Schwarzenegger, who recently endorsed AB 418 in his daily Pump Club Newsletter. “I’m a small government guy. But I’ve also seen that sometimes, in a world where every big industry has an army of lobbyists, and our kids have no one fighting for them, government has to step in.”
AB 418 was amended in the State Senate to remove titanium dioxide from the list of banned additives and to delay implementation of the bill until 2027, thereby giving food companies more than enough time to negotiate new contracts and phase in new recipes.
Notably, many major brands and manufacturers – including Coke, Pepsi, Gatorade, and Panera – have voluntarily stopped using the additives that would be banned under AB 418 because of concerns about their impact on human health. One of these chemicals – Red Dye No. 3 – is already banned by the FDA for use in cosmetics but is still allowed in food.
“Toxic chemicals that have been shown to cause cancer and other chronic health problems should not be allowed in our food,” said Brian Ronholm, director of food policy at Consumer Reports. “Unfortunately, the FDA hasn’t taken action to protect the public despite the well-documented risks these harmful food chemicals pose to our health. We applaud California lawmakers for voting to ban these hazardous chemicals in food and urge Governor Newsom to sign this landmark legislation into law.”
If signed into law, AB 418 would not ban any products; it would instead require companies to make modifications to products sold in California and likely prompt a nationwide transition to safer alternatives.
“AB 418 is the most important food safety bill in more than a decade and its passage would be a historic victory for protecting kids and families from dangerous food chemicals,” said Scott Faber, Senior Vice President for Government Affairs at the Environmental Working Group. “For decades, chemical companies have been able to exploit a loophole that allows food additives to escape adequate review and oversight by the FDA. Since the FDA has failed to keep us safe, it has become the responsibility of states like California to step up and lead.”
AB 418 now heads to Governor Gavin Newsom’s desk, where it must be signed into law or vetoed by Oct. 14.