Tough news for candy lovers: Gov. Gavin Newsom has approved first-in-the-nation legislation that will ban four additives frequently found in sweets such as Nerds, gummies, cookies, boxed cake mixes and more.
The ban, nicknamed the “Skittles ban,” prohibits red dye No. 3, titanium dioxide, potassium bromate and propylparaben, according to a news release from Assemblymember Jesse Gabriel’s office.
Dr. Lindsay Fahnestock, associate professor of public health, explained why these four additives have raised health concerns.
“Red dye No. 3 is a very interesting concern since it has been shown in some studies to increase the risk of tumors in rats, increase risk of thyroid issues and it has the potential to remain in the environment for long periods of time and bioaccumulate in the food chain,” Fahnestock said.
Fahnestock remembered hearing her professors at Loma Linda discussing brominated vegetable oil, saying it should be considered a potential endocrine disruptor.
“This makes sense, given that other brominated chemicals are already considered endocrine disruptors and it has been shown to have similar effects in research. Some health effects include neurological problems, thyroid and reproductive issues in rat studies, and even cholesterol and triglyceride complications,” Fahnestock said.
According to spnet.org, PepsiCo agreed to remove BVO from all their beverages in 2014.
Beginning with Gatorade, the drinks slowly made the change, with the final beverage containing BVO, Mountain Dew, removing the additive in 2020.
“I personally do not know as much about potassium bromate and propylparaben, however, I have heard that potassium bromate, found in bread products, is a potential cancer-causing agent that can affect DNA mutations,” Fahnestock said. “Being that [propylparaben] is a paraben, I would be concerned about its endocrine-disrupting effects as well. The Environmental Working Group rated this particular chemical as a 9 on a scale of potentially hazardous chemicals that should not be utilized in products.”
Both potassium bromate and propylparaben have been banned in Europe since 1990, according to legislation.gov.uk.
Jack Brown, junior creative writing major, said he thinks that the ban is a good opportunity for people to become more mindful about what they consume.
“[The ban] is raising more awareness for materials that are problematic,” Brown said. “It causes people to question what is in the food they consume, which in some ways is good. California has always been more health-conscious than other states and it’s probably a good thing.”
Fahnestock also sees the benefits behind the legislation.
“I do believe it will be a new trend to begin banning chemicals, which are known to cause deleterious health effects… at least I hope it will be,” Fahnestock added.
Fahnestock described going to get milk with her husband and discovering that a common dairy-free coffee creamer contained titanium dioxide.
“I know [titanium dioxide] has been used for a long time in skin products (which helps with the prevention of skin cancer) however, I had not realized it had been used for years in food,” she said.
Fahnestock thinks the list of banned additives will grow.
“I found out that Europe has also just recently banned [titanium dioxide] in food due to potential bioaccumulation and potential DNA damage. I believe CA has decided to add this to the list of banned chemicals as well, so I do believe this is starting a new trend.”
Tania Brooks, sophomore film production major, said she thinks the legislation prevents personal responsibility.
“I don’t think the ban is necessary because we all should have to the ability to choose what we consume,” Brooks said. “I think banning [additives] takes away our freedom and the nostalgia found in candies. I think people are already aware of what they are consuming and taking it away won’t make much of a difference but will just make people angry since certain candies and such have been around for so long already.”
The law will take effect in 2027. Other states seem to be following California’s lead, with New York proposing a similar bill that would ban a total of five additives, according to a release from the New York State Senate.
“We should always remember, we can never reduce our risks in life by 100%,” Fahnestock said. “However, we have the potential to reduce them to a tolerable level if we remain current on risk assessment research and have the willingness to continue striving for growth and never stop the learning process. We certainly do not want become complacent and end up causing more harm than good.”