California has made history by becoming the first U.S. state to prohibit using four potentially harmful food additives associated with various diseases. Red dye 3, propylparaben, potassium bromate, and brominated vegetable oil are now banned under the California Food Safety Act, making selling, delivering, distributing, or manufacturing products containing these additives illegal.
The Environmental Working Group’s Eat Well Guide indicates that over 3,000 foods use red dye 3, 204 use potassium bromate, 89 use brominated vegetable oil, and 52 use propylparaben.
Some well-known brands that may be affected include Peeps, particular PediaSure shakes, Nesquik strawberry milk (red dye 3), Cake Mate icing, Betty Crocker decorating icing (propylparaben), Stouffer’s frozen meals, Royal Caribbean Bakery stiff dough bread (potassium bromate), and some Food Lion, Shoprite, and Faygo sodas (brominated vegetable oil).
While the FDA banned red dye 3 in cosmetics in 1990 due to a potential cancer link, its use in food has not been banned.
Brominated vegetable oil has been associated with neurological problems, potassium bromate with cancer risk at significant doses, and propylparaben with diminished fertility. The FDA’s evaluation of these additives is ongoing.
Although these additives are already banned in several other countries, including the European Union, Canada, and Australia, the new law in California won’t take effect until 2027.
Governor Gavin Newsom views this as a positive step until the FDA establishes national regulations. The law doesn’t outright ban specific foods but requires companies to make minor recipe modifications using safer alternatives, aligning with practices in Europe and other global regions.
Consumer Reports co-sponsored the bill, calling it “groundbreaking,” while the National Confectioners Association criticized California lawmakers, accusing them of making decisions based on “soundbites rather than science.”