Oct. 27, 2023 — California Assemblymember Jesse Gabriel admits it. The problem wasn’t on his radar when a coalition of advocates approached him to speak about the necessity to take away harmful components from the meals provide.

Gabriel, a Democrat from the San Fernando Valley, additionally admits he hasn’t all the time been the healthiest eater, however now, as the daddy of three younger sons, “you begin to consider these items. You need to do proper by your children.”

“I’ll confess, at first I used to be just a little bit skeptical,” he mentioned. As he regarded over the info, he was astonished. “It appears loopy to me that there have been these chemical substances that have been banned not solely within the 27 nations of the European Union however actually in dozens of nations around the globe, based mostly on sturdy scientific proof they’re linked with vital well being harms.”

As he walked others within the Meeting by way of the science, he picked up bipartisan help for the invoice he and his colleagues launched. On Oct. 7, California Gov. Gavin Newsom signed the California Meals Security Act, making California the primary state to ban the manufacture, sale, or distribution of any meals product containing Crimson Dye No. 3 in addition to three different chemical substances: potassium bromate, brominated vegetable oil, and propyl paraben.

It takes impact in 2027.

California, New York, FDA?

Now, New York has proposed comparable laws, Senate Invoice S6055A and Meeting Invoice A6424, at the moment in early levels. Advocates for phasing out Crimson Dye No. 3 and different dangerous components hope these state-based developments will spur the FDA to lastly take comparable motion and reply to a petition requesting the ban of Crimson Dye No. 3. 

It’s been simply over a 12 months for the reason that Heart for Science within the Public Curiosity, the Environmental Working Group, and 22 different organizations filed that petition with the FDA, asking the company to ban Crimson Dye No. 3 in meals and dietary supplements. 

“We anticipate this new regulation [in California] could have nationwide impacts,” mentioned Thomas Galligan, PhD, principal scientist for meals components and dietary supplements for the Heart for Science within the Public Curiosity, a nonprofit advocacy group that seeks to make meals more healthy. “It actually mounts extra strain on the FDA for them to reply [to the 2022 petition].”

The FDA did acknowledge receipt of the petition, which the company filed on Nov. 15, Galligan mentioned, however he mentioned they missed the 180-day deadline – Could 14, 2023 — to reply.

The FDA has not responded to requests for remark about when the company would act on the petition or about why it has taken so lengthy. 

In the meantime, some firms have taken the initiative, eradicating Crimson Dye No. 3 from merchandise even earlier than the authorized deadline or setting a deadline for when it is going to be eliminated. The maker of Peeps, the marshmallow deal with favored at Easter, mentioned it’ll not use the dye after Easter 2024. However one trade group balks on the new regulation, contending that it’ll create confusion and mentioned ready on the FDA resolution could be greatest.

Chronology of Concern

Considerations in regards to the well being results of Crimson Dye No. 3 could be traced to the Nineteen Nineties, when analysis discovered that it causes thyroid most cancers in rats and the FDA agreed the proof was strong sufficient to “firmly set up” the hyperlink between the dye and thyroid most cancers in rats. 

That discovering alone obliges the FDA to behave, Galligan of the Heart for Science within the Public Curiosity mentioned, citing what’s often called the Delaney Clause. Integrated into the federal Meals, Drug and Beauty Act by the Meals Components Modification of 1958, the clause requires the FDA to ban any meals components discovered to trigger or induce most cancers in both animals or individuals. 

“The FDA acknowledged in 1990 that Crimson Dye No. 3 causes most cancers in animals,” Galligan mentioned. “By our evaluation of the proof there haven’t been additional research for the reason that 1990 one to refute the FDA’s prior conclusion.”

The FDA banned Crimson Dye No. 3 in cosmetics and externally utilized medicine, however not in meals and dietary supplements. For the reason that 1990 investigations, a lot different analysis has linked the additive with well being points:

  • A 2021 report by the California Environmental Safety Company’s Workplace of Environmental Well being Hazard Evaluation discovered that consumption of artificial meals dyes may end up in hyperactivity and different neurobehavioral issues in some kids. The share of American kids and teenagers identified with consideration deficit hyperactivity dysfunction (ADHD) has elevated from about 6.1% to 10.2% up to now 2 many years. The report was issued after a complete 2-year analysis of seven artificial meals dyes accredited by the FDA, together with Crimson Dye No. 3. Outcomes have been additionally printed within the journal Environmental Well being.  
  • In a 2012 overview of the analysis on all U.S. accredited dyes, researchers concluded that “the entire at the moment used dyes needs to be faraway from the meals provide and changed, if in any respect, by safer colorings.” 

The American Academy of Pediatrics issued a coverage assertion in 2018 on meals components and youngster well being, concluding that substantial enhancements to the meals components regulatory system are urgently wanted. Amongst different actions, it requires strengthening or changing the FDA’s GRAS  (“usually acknowledged as protected”) dedication course of, which permits a product “usually acknowledged as protected” to skip the premarket overview and FDA approval course of.

The place Is Crimson Dye No. 3 Discovered?

The Environmental Working Group maintains a database, Meals Scores, which grades merchandise on diet, meals components, and processing. Employees with the Heart for Science within the Public Curiosity searched the EWG’s database and located 3,183 brand-name meals containing Crimson Dye No. 3. Often known as erythrosine, it’s constituted of petroleum.   

A partial listing, and the scores, with 10 being worst:

  • Brach’s Traditional Sweet Corn, 10.
  • Peeps Cookie Coop Equipment, 5 Chicks, 10.
  • Pediasure Develop and Achieve Strawberry Shake, 9.
  • Pez Strawberry (and different flavors), 8.
  • Ring Pop Halloween selection bag, 10.
  • Corso’s Valentine Sugar Cookies, 10.

In keeping with EWG, it’s additionally in fruit packs, bubble gum, some cake mixes, and different meals. These brightly coloured meals are sometimes marketed to children, mentioned Tasha Stoiber, PhD, a senior scientist at EWG. “They’re celebration meals, and it’s largely kids who’re consuming these. The quantity even in a single serving of meals can have an effect on probably the most delicate kids. Not each youngster is affected the identical; some are notably delicate.”

Crimson Dye No. 3 Substitute: Beet Powder

“Like several coloration additive, Crimson Dye No. 3 isn’t a vital ingredient,” Galligan mentioned. “It’s simply there to make meals visually interesting.” He and others level to the European Union, the place Crimson Dye No. 3 and different components are largely prohibited in meals. “The meals trade has already labored by way of this within the European market,” Galligan mentioned, so U.S. meals suppliers may actually do the identical.

A standard various to Crimson Dye No. 3, in response to EWG, is beet powder, which can value even lower than the dye.   

Corporations’ Efforts

Dunkin’ Donuts was a entrance runner, which introduced in 2018 it was eradicating all synthetic dyes from its merchandise.


In an announcement, Keith Domalewski, spokesperson for Simply Born, mentioned none of its Peeps candies could have Crimson Dye No. 3 after Easter 2024. One other of its merchandise, Scorching Tamales, not incorporates Crimson Dye No. 3, and an upgraded ingredient listing is predicted to seem on cabinets quickly.

Requested if the corporate thought of making a Crimson Dye No. 3-free product for California and leaving it within the different merchandise for different states, one other spokesperson didn’t know.

However consultants at each the Environmental Working Group and the Heart for Science within the Public Curiosity mentioned they doubted any firm would do this — each due to prices and since changing crimson dye with different color-enhancing merchandise, akin to beet powders, is comparatively straightforward to do. “There are alternate options [to the dyes] and it is sensible to do away with one which we all know causes most cancers,” Stoiber of the Environmental Working Group mentioned.

Brach’s sweet corn, made by Ferrara USA, additionally has a rating of 10 on account of Crimson Dye No. 3 content material. A spokesperson didn’t instantly reply to questions on whether or not it’ll take away Crimson Dye No. 3 from its merchandise.

Taking Exception

Not everyone seems to be applauding the state-led efforts. In an announcement launched after the California invoice was signed into regulation, the Nationwide Confectioners Affiliation mentioned: “Governor Newsom’s approval of this invoice will undermine client confidence and create confusion round meals security. This regulation replaces a uniform nationwide meals security system with a patchwork of inconsistent state necessities created by legislative fiat that can improve meals prices.”

It continued: “This can be a slippery slope that the FDA may forestall by partaking on this essential subject. We needs to be counting on the scientific rigor of the FDA when it comes to evaluating the security of meals elements and components.”

In an op-ed printed earlier than the California invoice was signed into regulation, Frank Yiannas, a former deputy commissioner of meals coverage and response on the FDA, known as the proposed laws “well-intended” but when enacted would “set a harmful precedent on how meals security requirements in our nation are greatest established.” State-by-state selections, he wrote, would lead to totally different regulatory requirements “that might weaken our nation’s meals system and meals security efforts.”

Whereas he understands that many assume the FDA isn’t shifting quick sufficient on the choice, “this doesn’t imply we should always bypass their authority.”

What’s Subsequent?

California’s Gabriel mentioned he’s gotten inquiries from legislators in different states excited by proposing comparable laws. He had two targets in getting the laws signed into regulation, he mentioned. “The first was to guard children and households. The second was to ship a message to Washington, DC, in regards to the want for some actual reforms within the FDA meals security course of.”

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