California Food Safety Act – The legislation reports to ban food products containing brominated vegetable oil, potassium bromate, and red dye 3.
In his announcement, Newsom pointed to similar bans in Europe and said, “This bill has been subject to numerous misperceptions about its effects.” Newsom cited a bag of European-made Skittles as “proof positive” the food industry can maintain product lines while adhering to different public health regulations from country to country.
In 2008, the European Union banned these food additives following a review.
Under the California measure, food makers will need to rebrand their products to meet the new law when they are sold in the state starting in January 2027. Since food manufacturers typically don’t produce two versions per product, it is expected that the law will affect products across the country.
Other states are also considering similar bills.
The law, which goes into effect on January 1, 2027, will require food manufacturers using any of the targeted chemicals to reformulate their products if they wish to continue to sell their foods in the significant California market. Violation of the California Food Safety Act will be punishable by a civil penalty not to exceed $5,000 for a first violation and not to exceed $10,000 for each subsequent violation.
AB 418 originally also aimed to ban a fifth chemical, titanium dioxide, but it was removed from the legislation before reaching Governor Newsom’s desk to gain more support, and due to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA’s) stance that it is safe as a regulated color additive in foods. However, FDA still stands behind its regulation and the safety of red dye 3, potassium bromate, brominated vegetable oil, and propylparaben as well, refuting Assembly memeber Gabriel’s assertion that the chemicals are only allowed in the U.S. food supply due to a “concerning lack of federal oversight.” Specifically, a “loophole” known as Generally Recognized as Safe (GRAS), which allows for certain food additives to be used in the U.S. without premarket review and approval by FDA, as long as they have been “adequately shown to be safe under the conditions of its intended use” through common use or scientific evidence.
Some food regulatory experts and industry trade groups have expressed their disapproval of the first-of-its-kind California Food Safety Act, for reasons ranging from a lack of basis in scientific process to its potential to cause discord in U.S. food regulation. Former FDA Deputy Commissioner of Human Foods, Frank Yiannas, expressed that AB 418 sets a “dangerous precedent” on how food safety standards in the U.S. are established, saying, “Without relying on a strong, science-driven federal food safety agency, our country is left with a state-by-state patchwork of different, emerging regulatory standards that would weaken our nation’s food system and food safety efforts.” He believes the U.S. needs a stronger FDA that will work in close collaboration with states to manage the scientific rigor needed to evaluate the safety of food involved in interstate commerce.