The California bill would ban Skittles, candy with toxic additives

Local market candies and snacks could be made with different ingredients if a bill proposed by California Assemblyman Jesse Gabriel is voted into law.

Last month, Gabriel (D-Woodland Hills) introduced AB 418, which would ban the sale, manufacture and distribution of foods containing chemicals that have been linked to health problems, including reduced immune response, hyperactivity in children and increased risk of cancer.

The bill would make California the first state to ban the sale and production of foods containing the chemicals, according to a release from Gabriel̵[ads1]7;s office.

The chemicals, which are currently banned in the EU, are found in a range of snacks including Skittles, Ding Dongs (with red heart sprinkles) and a number of other ubiquitous foods.

However, Gabriel does not mean to deprive Californians of their Skittles and other treats.

“I love Skittles. I love Wild Berry Skittles. I eat them all the time, Gabriel said. “I would vote against a bill to ban Skittles.

“What we’re really trying to get them to do is change their recipes,” Gabriel told The Times on Thursday. “All of these are non-essential ingredients.”

Skittles and other products are still on store shelves in Europe, Gabriel noted, but they have different ingredients.

“I think the overwhelming likelihood of what’s going to happen would be that they would make minor changes to their recipes,” Gabriel said.

California lawmakers who supported the bill pointed to a series of scientific studies showing links between the chemicals — which include Red Dye No. 3, titanium dioxide, potassium bromate, brominated vegetable oil and propylparaben — and health problems. In a study cited by Gabriel’s office, titanium dioxide, used in Skittles as a coloring agent, was found to be associated with reduced immune response in rats.

A lawsuit filed last year in California against Mars, which makes Skittles, claimed the colorful candies were “unfit for human consumption” because of titanium dioxide.

The substance is approved by the FDA, which states that it cannot make up more than 1 percent by weight of the food.

“Californians should not have to worry that the food they buy at their grocery store may be full of dangerous additives or toxic chemicals,” Gabriel said last month in a release. “This bill will correct a troubling lack of federal oversight and help protect our children, public health, and the safety of our food supply.”

Dana Hunnes, a clinical dietitian at UCLA Medical Center and assistant professor at UCLA’s Fielding School of Public Health, said she supported the ban but acknowledged the debates that have swirled around some of the additives.

“Certainly some of [the chemicals] is probably more dangerous than any of the others, Hunnes said in an interview with The Times. “We know that parabens, for example, are endocrine disruptors [which affect hormones]. We know that red dyes are carcinogenic.”

But Hunnes said questions still remain about whether the results of tests on animals such as rats can be extrapolated to humans.

“And that brings up the question of why bother testing on animals and showing that some of these [chemicals] cause cancer in animals if we do not somehow relate it to human health, said Hunnes.

Still, Hunnes said removing some of the chemicals from Californian diets would be a good thing.

“Overall, I think the fewer food additives and the less processed food we eat,” she said, “the better off we’ll all be.”

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