California assembly members, Jesse Gabriel (D – Woodland Hills) and Buffy Wicks (D – Oakland) introduced Assembly Bill 418 at the beginning of February. If passed, this bill will ban five toxic chemicals used in certain foods that are linked to health problems.
The AB-418 Food Product Safety would prohibit the sale, delivery, distribution and manufacturing of titanium dioxide, brominated vegetable oil, propylparaben, potassium bromate and red dye No. 3. The new law would go into effect in January 2025.
According to Gabriel, the five chemicals on the legislation have been banned in the European Union. Studies have linked these toxic chemicals to health problems such as damage to the immune system and increased risk of cancer. They also harm the reproductive system and can cause behavioral issues in children.
“Red dye is the one that children should not be around because it’s linked to neural behavioral issues,” Keith Schildt, director of public health and health service management programming at the University of La Verne, said.
According to Consumer Reports, red dye No. 3 is a food coloring used in candies, cereals and baked goods. Brominated vegetable oil is a substance that blends liquids and is found in sports drinks and sodas.
Propylparaben is a preservative that extends the shelf life of more than 50 packaged products such as corn tortillas and baked desserts. Potassium bromate strengthens the dough and enhances its texture. That ingredient is found in frozen foods, packaged bread and dumplings.
The article also states titanium dioxide serves as a food coloring to help sauces and food appear whiter. It is used in baking decorations and coffee creamers.
Schildt said there are alternatives to these toxic ingredients that are safer. He said although the five chemicals in AB 418 are banned in the European Union they still have the same products. The only difference is they use other ingredients to substitute them and some of the alternatives can be cheaper.
“It leads me to suspect that they don’t change it because they have to change their manufacturing processes,” he said. “It could be more expensive than buying a cheaper ingredient.”
Ethan Anderson, a sophomore communications student said, he does not check what is in his food. He said he eats processed foods because it is what he is able to afford as a college student.
“If I had the finances, I would not be eating fast food every other day,” Anderson said.
Kevin Tran, a resident of Santa Ana, said he has been meal-prepping for about three years. When he first started he would check the ingredients and do his research. He is familiar with AB 418 and the chemicals that are in that legislation.
“I’m actually for it,” Tran said. “I try to avoid those ingredients as much as I can.”
Biejay Tan, a chiropractor and rehabilitation coach, said he started meal-prepping 11 years ago. He said he does try to avoid foods that are packaged and buys food that is fresh. Tan said, because of his background he is familiar with chemicals and ingredients. He advises people to educate themselves on eating healthier.
“Do your due diligence,” Tan said. “If you don’t understand something, do your research.”
He also said he avoids products that are cheap and last a long time.
“That means they added preservatives and other chemicals to last longer than the food we make at home,” Tan said. “Food should not last months or years.”
Schildt said it would be a good thing for colleges to educate students about these things. He teaches HSM551 food systems and public health at a graduate level.
“I would love to teach it at an undergraduate level course,” Schildt said. “It would be fantastic.”
Amy Alcantara can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.