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California Skittles Ban: An Update

State legislators passed California Assembly Bill 418 (AB418), which, if signed into law by Governor Newsom, will effectively ban four potentially harmful food additives in popular candy and other food products.

On September 12, the California Legislature passed Assembly Bill 418, AKA the "California Skittles ban," which forbids the manufacture and sale of four potentially harmful food additives. However, a fifth additive, titanium dioxide — an ingredient in Skittles and other food products included in the original bill — will not be banned.

The bill now goes to Governor Gavin Newsom, who will sign or veto the bill by October 14. If adopted, the ban will go into effect January 1, 2027.

State lawmakers introduced the California Skittles ban bill on February 2, which sought to forbid the manufacturing and selling of food products containing Red Dye No. 3, brominated vegetable oil, potassium bromate, propylparaben, and titanium dioxide.

These five ingredients have been linked to cancer, childhood behavioral issues, and reproductive harm. The European Union, Japan, and South Korea have already banned several of these additives.

However, an updated version of AB418 struck the titanium dioxide provision from the list. If Governor Newsom signs the bill into law, his decision will not impact food products that contain titanium dioxide, like Skittles.

According to The Sacramento Bee, Assemblymember Jesse Gabriel (D-Woodland Hills), who introduced the bill, removed the provision that would have banned titanium dioxide to gain bipartisan support and urge lawmakers in Washington, D.C. to take action on food safety.

Titanium dioxide has also been the subject of lawsuits. Most recently, California resident Jenile Thames filed a class action suit against the Mars Corporation for using the chemical in Skittles.

The Environmental Working Group (EWG), a co-sponsor of AB 418 along with Consumer Reports, says, "European regulators have already banned the four substances from use in food, with the narrow exception of Red Dye No. 3 in candied cherries. Given the size of California's economy, A.B. 418 would set an important precedent for improving the safety of many processed foods."

Earlier this year, the National Confectioners Association issued a statement opposing the bill, claiming, "chocolate and candy are safe to enjoy, as they have been for centuries. We strongly oppose AB 418 because there is no evidence to support banning the ingredients listed in the bill. The ingredients that would be banned under this proposal have all been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Food safety is the number one priority for U.S. confectionery companies, and we do not use any ingredients in our products that do not comply with the FDA's strictest safety standards."

However, Scott Faber, EWG senior vice president for government affairs, says the FDA has failed to keep consumers from toxic food chemicals for decades.

"The chemical companies keep exploiting a loophole that allows for food additives that have not been adequately reviewed for safety by the FDA," Faber said. "And the FDA consistently fails to reassess chemicals, even in light of new science. The food and confectioners industries know the review process at the FDA is broken."

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