Canceled Candy Chemicals

  Many candy and other packaged food brands may be changing their recipes for California soon. On February 2, 2023, a new bill was introduced to the California state assembly: Assembly Bill 418 (shortened to AB418). The bill, which is currently being debated in the California Senate, plans to ban five different chemicals in California, all of which are used in processed foods: red dye no. 3, titanium dioxide, potassium bromate, brominated vegetable oil, and propyl paraben. Many candies use these different chemicals.

If AB418 is passed, it would make California the first state to ban any of these chemicals, and candies such as Skittles, Nerds, Starburst, and Trolli may no longer be on the market in the state. All of the chemicals in question have previously been banned by the European Union (EU) due to their dangers to people’s health.  A variety of food brands have resorted to developing different recipes to overcome this ban: the Skittles available in the EU may replace the ones California has currently. 

Red Dye No. 3: Red dye no. 3 is used to create an alluring and bright red color. Besides candy, the dye is used to give maraschino cherries their vivid crimson color. Although until now it has been permitted for use in foods, the FDA did ban the use of red dye no. 3 way back in 1990 in cosmetics and externally applied drugs after research suggested that the dye might have a link to thyroid cancer in animals. 

Titanium Dioxide: Titanium dioxide, one of the chemicals used in Skittles and other candies that may now be banned by AB418, is supposed to give a smooth texture to candies. Titanium dioxide has been reviewed by the FDA in the past, but conclusions about the dangers to health it poses have only been acknowledged in recent years. 

Potassium Bromate: Potassium bromate is one of the cheapest dough enhancers on the market and can be found in almost anything that contains flour. Although not in candy, potassium bromate can be found in most breads and packaged baked goods. Due to concerns that it might cause cancer, the chemical was banned by the EU in 1990. 

Brominated Vegetable Oil: Brominated vegetable oils (BVOs) are used in almost any sugary products that have citrus flavors. This includes Skittles and many candies, but also countless sodas. In 2016, Pepsi removed BVOs from all of their sodas except for Mountain Dew, and the EU’s Regulation (EC) No 1333/2008 banned it from Europe. 

Propyl Paraben: Propyl paraben is used in many processed foods, from cakes to candy, mainly for its antibacterial and antifungal properties. Parabens in general have been noted as being able to disrupt hormones in the body, endangering fertility and reproductive organs.