California, with its 39 million residents, ranks as the nation’s largest market for consumer goods like snack foods.
When California sneezes, the nationwide market catches a cold. California passed new regulations on the pork industry last year, and the Golden State faced a Supreme Court battle about its power to regulate industries outside its own borders.
And it’s about to happen again.
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California Democrat Jesse Gabriel, a state assemblymember, has written a bill to ban Red No. 3, a food coloring common in some of the nation’s most popular candies.
In 1990, the F.D.A. banned makeup manufacturers from combining Red Dye No. 3 with certain other subtances. The agency described the chemical mixture as a risk factor for cancer in lab rats exposed to high doses. However, the F.D.A. still allows the dye in food.
Consumer safety groups have understandably been pushing for the F.D.A. to ban the dye from new manufacturing.
But California’s legislature just stepped on the F.D.A.’s toes.
The F.D.A. simply banned some uses of the dye from new makeup. However, California’s legislature — with the bluntest tool in its shed — is preparing to ban grocery stores from selling some foodstuffs already on their shelves.
“A person or entity shall not manufacture, sell, deliver, distribute, hold, or offer for sale, in commerce a food product that contains any of the following substances,” the bill says.
Defenders of California’s proposed ban have pointed out that some retailers — like the grocery chain Kroger — are already moving away from products with these chemicals. They also point out that the candy manufacturers have already changed their recipes for European markets due to a similar ban in the E.U.
“There is no realistic chance that this bill will result in Skittles or any other product being pulled off the shelf,” one Democrat legislator reportedly said in a press release Wednesday. “The idea here is for these companies to make minor modifications to their recipes so that these products no longer include dangerous and toxic chemicals… Skittles and many other brands have already made changes to their recipes in the European Union, the United Kingdom and other nations where these chemicals are banned.”
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Still, the state legislators have yet to address the concerns about California imposing its will on the 320 million Americans outside the Golden State.
In fact, Gabriel reportedly acknowledges the bill’s potential to make a national impact, and he still supports it.
“No one’s going to walk away from the California market,” Gabriel told The Guardian.
The legislature is currently moving the bill through committees, and it has yet to hold a floor vote. If passed in the Assembly, the bill would go to the state Senate before proceeding to Gov. Gavin Newsom’s desk.
Newsom has yet to comment publicly on the ban, which includes four substances in addition to the red dye.
Take a look at this list of five foods reportedly containing Red Dye No. 3 —
- Hot Tamales
- Dubbe Bubble
- Jelly Belly Candy Corn
A California lawmaker wants to ban certain types of chemical additives in food dyes used in popular candies like Skittles and Peeps. They are already banned in the European Union because of public health concerns. pic.twitter.com/zoNJxHbrQm
— The Associated Press (@AP) April 8, 2023
The Horn editorial team and the Associated Press contributed to this article.