California “Skittles Bill” Is Step Toward Safer Foods

California is the first state in the nation preparing to ban five food additives found in many processed foods and candies and that have been linked to hormone disruption, cancer, and other health problems. Assembly Bill 418, which has been called the “Skittles Bill” because the ingredients are found in popular candies such as Skittles, Sour Patch Kids, and Hot Tamales, targets the use of red dye No 3, titanium dioxide, brominated vegetable oil, potassium bromate, and propyl paraben.

A reason for the ban, according to supporters of the Bill, is that the Food and Drug Administration has not adequately evaluated the safety of these ingredients and that there exists a loophole that is allowing “thousands of chemicals to enter the U.S. food system without proper safety reviews.” The Bill was introduced by Assembly members Jesse Gabriel and Buffy Wicks, and co-sponsored by the Environmental Working Group and Consumer Reports.

Read about 7 scary food additives to avoid

Although the California Assembly passed Assembly Bill 418 in May 2023, it must still pass the California Senate, and opposition to the bill has been heavy from many food industry groups, including the California Grocers Association, American Bakers Association, and the International Association of Color Manufacturers. However, dozens of health and consumer safety groups are supporting the bill, and if all the advocates are successful, the ingredients will be banned by 2025. In the meantime, proponents of the Bill hope other states will follow suit. Already, lawmakers in New York and Illinois have taken steps to reevaluate food additives.

The five additives to be banned

Assembly Bill AB 418 prohibits anyone or any entity from “manufacturing, selling, delivering, distributing, holding, or offering for sale” food products for human consumption that contain any of the following five substances:

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  • Red dye No. 3: also known as E127 or RF7C Red No. 3. It has been shown to cause cancer in laboratory animals when used in high doses. The Food and Drug Administration has known since the 1980’s that red dye No. 3 causes thyroid cancer in animals, which lead to the organization banning the dye from cosmetics in 1990. Yet the dye is still used in food, especially candies, and has been linked to hyperactivity in children.
  • Titanium dioxide: used to make some foods whiter, such as cottage cheese, coffee creamer, white sauces, chewing gum, and cake frostings. It contains nanoparticles, which makes it easy for them to damage cells. A recent study has linked titanium dioxide to a greater risk of colon cancer.
  • Potassium bromate: strengthens dough and is commonly used in bread and other baked goods. It has already been banned in the European Union, Canada, and many other countries. A 2023 research article notes that prolonged regular consumption of breads containing this additive is associated with an increased risk of cancer.
  • Brominated vegetable oil: a plant-derived triglyceride mixture that helps prevent separation of ingredients in some beverages, especially those containing citrus. Animal studies suggest it can cause reproductive and behavioral problems when consumed at high doses. It’s been shown to cause rash, acne, fatigue, abdominal pain, loss of appetite, and cardiac arrhythmias.
  • Propyl paraben: a preservative that has shown in a recent study published in Endocrinology to disrupt hormones. The Environmental Working Group notes that propylparaben, which can be found in various baked desserts and tortillas, can alter gene expression and affect fertility.

According to independent consultant and food additives researcher Maricel Maffini, none of the chemicals named in the California bill are necessary for food uses. Food manufacturers can still produce any of the products they make that now use these chemicals as long as they don’t include the substances. In European Union countries, Skittles and Sour Patch Kids are free of the banned substances.

Read about 5 gnarly food preservatives to avoid

Food companies stepping up

Some food manufacturers and industry leaders have already eliminated harmful substances from their products and menus. Dunkin Donuts reported in 2015 that it was dropping titanium dioxide from its products. In 2017, Panera Bread said it would no longer use artificial sweeteners, flavors, colors, or preservatives from artificial sources. In addition, there are many food manufacturers who do not and/or have never used artificial ingredients in their products and/or provide all organic foods. And there are more than those listed here!

Bottom line

The California Skittles Bill is an attempt to eliminate five harmful food additives from the food supply in that state. Beyond helping to improve food safety in one state, it is hoped that lawmakers at both the state and federal levels, as well as food producers, will step up and initiate measures to remove other harmful food additives from the marketplace.   

11 natural food companies you can feel safe buying just about anything from. AllWomensTalk
The best organic food companies. The Honest Consumer 2023 Mar 29
Brominated vegetable oil side effects. Health Research Funding
California Bill AB 418 Food Safety Bill. TrackBill
Geng C. Is there a link between red dye 40 and ADHD? Medical News Today 2022 Feb 25
Mogus JP et al. Exposure to propylparaben during pregnancy and lactation induces long-term alterations to the mammary gland in mice. Endocrinology 2021; 162(6): 
Ncheuveu Nkwatoh T et al. Potassium bromate in bread, health risks to bread consumers and toxicity symptoms amongst bakers in Bamenda, North West Region of Cameroon. Heliyon 2023 Jan 21; 9(2):e13146.
The New Lede. “Skittles Bill.” California to ban 5 food additives linked to cancer, hormone disruption. Children’s Health Defense 2023 Jun 29
Propyl paraben. Environmental Working Group 2015 Apr 8
Schakowsky, DeLauro reintroduce legislation to ensure our food is safe. Press release. Jan Schakowsky 2023 Jun 7
Senate Bill S6055A. The New York State Senate
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Lisa Roth Collins is a Registered Holistic Nutritionist (RHN) and is the Marketing Manager at She is passionate about health and wellness and tries her best to make healthier choices every day for herself and her family. Her journey to natural health was driven by her own struggles with digestive discomfort, depression, and anxiety. Lisa returned to school in 2014 to study nutrition at the Canadian School for Natural Nutrition. She threw herself into her studies so she could learn as much as she could to help herself feel better and thrive. Upon completing the program and being certified as an RHN, Lisa began her work at Naturally Savvy where she has been able to help so many people learn to make healthier choices for themselves. Through her work, she has connected with so many incredible people in the industry whether other authors, influencers, or brands. Plus, she is affectionately known as "Techie Spice" because of her ability to wrap her head around technology. Every day she gets up with a renewed sense of energy and ready to make a difference. You can read all of Lisa's content here. In her spare time, Lisa loves to try new recipes, make delicious and nourishing meals, and she is an avid reader. For more information about Lisa, check out her profile on here.