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Contentious Additive Bill Passed by California Assembly

06/03/2024

The California Assembly has passed AB2316 by a 59 to 0 vote with 21 abstentions.  The bill will ban six commonly used coloring agents and titanium dioxide additives in meals destined for school lunch programs supported by the state.  The bill was supported by Consumer Reports and the Environmental Working Group.  The sponsor, Assemblyman Jesse Gabriel (D-Encina) has opposed dye additives and was responsible for the California Food Safety Act enacted last year banning four additives for food manufactured, delivered and sold in California.  This action stimulated initiatives in Illinois and New York that intend to ban red dye #3 and potassium bromate.

 

There is considerable opposition to AB2316, principally from the California Brands Association that, stated “The measure usurps the comprehensive food safety and approval system and will limit the availability of foods.” Opponents of AB2316 correctly point to the established system applied by the federal government to register or ban additives including coloring agents.  Federal and state systems review additives and make decisions based on scientific data.

 

With respect to the sponsor of AB2316, Assemblyman Gabriel states, “As a lawmaker, a parent and someone who struggled with ADHD, I find it unacceptable that we allow schools to serve foods with additives that are linked to cancer, hyperactivity and neurobehavioral harms.”  It is an unfortunate state of affairs that elected legislators have suddenly become experts on food safety and toxicology, in the same way that members of House, Senate and the judiciary are now gynecologists.  While there is need to ensure that additives do not detract from the wholesomeness of foods, imposing bans on a statewide basis without adequate scientific review creates problems for industry and consumers.

 

It is a matter of fact that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, the European Food Safety Authority and the WHO Joint Expert Committee on Food Additives have rejected any causal association between currently used food coloring agents and any adverse neuro-behavioral effect in children. The California Assembly is embarking on a potentially harmful and unnecessary program of banning innocuous additives based on the presumptions and predilections of an assemblyman with an unfortunate disability.  We have seen this movie before relating a discredited and spurious relationship between childhood vaccination and autism.  Legislation should be based on scientific reality not on personal convictions and prejudices however well motivated.