California’s War on Skittles; Will the Popular Candy Get Banned?

What would you do if Skittles and other favorite candies were suddenly banned in your state? It’s a question that Californians have been asking themselves, amid a legislative push to ban chemicals used in Skittles and other popular candies.

The so-called “War on Skittles” is not, in fact, a crusade against this particular candy. Instead, it represents a broader effort to regulate potentially harmful additives in our food supply.

The Battle Begins: Assembly Bill 418

At the heart of this issue is California’s Assembly Bill 418 (AB 418), proposed legislation that aims to ban the manufacture, sale, or distribution of foods containing five chemicals linked to health problems. These include titanium dioxide, red dye No. 3, potassium bromate, brominated vegetable oil, and propyl paraben, which are found in various candies, baked goods, dairy products, and sodas.

The proposed legislation has gained national attention, especially due to its potential impact on popular candies such as Skittles, which contains titanium dioxide, one of the chemicals targeted by AB 418. This ingredient was also the subject of a lawsuit in California where a man claimed Skittles was “unfit for human consumption” because of it.

The Motivation Behind the Bill

The man behind the bill is Assemblyman Jesse Gabriel, who assures that the objective of the legislation is not to ban Skittles or similar products outright, but rather to compel companies to alter their recipes, as they have already done in other countries like those in Europe, Canada, the U.K., and Brazil that have banned these chemicals.

The intent behind AB 418 reflects a growing concern about the food additives commonly used in the United States. Many of these additives have not been thoroughly evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration, and several are simply “generally recognized as safe,” despite minimal oversight.

A Step Closer to Becoming Law

As of late, AB 418 has made significant strides towards becoming law. The California Assembly overwhelmingly passed the bill, sending it over to the state Senate. If the Senate approves the bill, it will then need the governor’s signature to become law.

Supporters of the bill, including the Environmental Working Group and Consumer Reports, argue that Californians and all consumers deserve to know their food doesn’t increase their risk of toxic chemical exposure and jeopardize their health.

The Opposition

However, AB 418 faces strong opposition from various food industry groups, which argue that the chemicals in question are safe and that the food safety process should be allowed to continue the appropriate review of these additives. These industry groups believe that AB 418 is an unnecessary burden on consumers, manufacturers, and regulators.

The Future of Food Standards

Regardless of the fate of AB 418, the “War on Skittles” represents a broader trend towards increasing scrutiny of the ingredients in our food. As consumers demand more transparency and safer products, we may see more battles like this in the future.

Whether or not AB 418 becomes law, its journey through the legislative process highlights the tension between industry practices, regulatory standards, and consumer expectations. This war, in many ways, is just beginning.

As we continue to strive for a balance between these factors, we are likely to witness more such conflicts in the future. The outcome of this war could set a precedent for future legislation, potentially influencing food standards not only in California but across the United States and even globally.

Food manufacturers, Gabriel argues, aren’t likely to have one recipe for California and another for the rest of the U.S., so if the bill passes, it’s plausible that changes could occur nationwide. Therefore, this legislation may have implications for consumers in the rest of the U.S., potentially leading to an America where Skittles and similar products use the same recipes as they do in Europe.

In essence, the “War on Skittles” is not just about Skittles. It’s about our food system as a whole and how we approach food safety. It’s a debate about the ingredients we consume and the potential risks they pose to our health.

It’s a fight for safer, healthier food standards and a call to action for food manufacturers to be more accountable and transparent about what goes into their products. This battle is just one of many that we will see in the fight for better food standards, and it’s a fight that we all have a stake in.

Thomas Smith

Thomas Smith is a food and travel photographer and writer based in the San Francisco Bay Area. His photographic work routinely appears in publications including Food and Wine, Conde Nast Traveler, and the New York Times and his writing appears in IEEE Spectrum, SFGate, the Bold Italic and more. Smith holds a degree in Cognitive Science (Neuroscience) and Anthropology from the Johns Hopkins University.

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