California state Democrat introduces ban on artificial dyes in foods served in schools

A California legislator introduced a first-of-its-kind bill Tuesday in the state Assembly that would ban seven artificial dyes from foods served in schools, citing health and behavioral risks.

Assembly Member Jesse Gabriel’s Bill 2316 would bar California schools from purchasing, serving or selling any foods that contain the dyes. Among them are Red 40, which has been tied to hyperactivity in children, and titanium dioxide, a white dye that has been banned in the European Union over cancer risks.

“California has a responsibility to protect our students from chemicals that harm children and that can interfere with their ability to learn,” Gabriel said in a statement. “As a lawmaker, a parent, and someone who struggled with ADHD, I find it unacceptable that we allow schools to serve foods with additives that are linked to cancer, hyperactivity, and neurobehavioral harms.”

“This bill will empower schools to better protect the health and wellbeing of our kids and encourage manufacturers to stop using these dangerous additives,” he said.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has found no specific causal link between food dyes and behavioral disorders in children, as of a 2019 report, though newer research from California goes against those conclusions.

A 2021 report from the California Environmental Protection Agency first found that some dyes could result in hyperactivity in children, additionally noting that much of the scientific research on the topic is decades outdated.

The bill expands on a measure signed into law last year, also introduced by Gabriel, that outlawed “dangerous additives” in all foods sold in California, including a dye found in Skittles, which posed health risks to consumers.

Gabriel’s office said in a statement that Tuesday’s bill would outright ban specific products or foods, but rather “prompt a nationwide transition to safer alternative ingredients.”

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