California lawmaker introduce new bill to remove artificial dyes from school foods

On Tuesday, a state legislator proposed a unique bill to prohibit seven additives from being used in the foods served in California’s public schools.

Assembly Bill 2316 aims to ban school cafeterias from serving foods that contain six artificial food dyes associated with hyperactivity and behavioral problems in certain children. It would also prohibit the use of titanium dioxide, a whitening agent found in candies and other products. The European Union has banned this ingredient due to worries about its potential to harm DNA and lead to cancer.

The bill, initially revealed to NBC News, targets specific food items like cereals, condiments, and baked goods. If passed, California would become the first state to prohibit these additives in schools. Democratic Assemblymember Jesse Gabriel introduced it.

Gabriel clarified during a virtual news conference on Tuesday that the legislation will not prohibit any particular foods or products. The objective is to prompt companies to make slight adjustments to their products to comply with California public schools’ requirements.

According to Gabriel, making the required recipe adjustments can be as simple as swapping out one ingredient. He mentioned that numerous items available in stores opt for natural alternatives like turmeric, beet juice, or pomegranate juice for coloring.

“Synthetic dyes are considered nonessential ingredients,” Gabriel mentioned in a phone interview prior to introducing the bill. These are substances added to food to enhance their visual appeal. However, each one has its own set of alternatives.

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Along with titanium dioxide, the bill aims to prohibit Red 40, Green 3, Blue 1 and Blue 2, as well as Yellow 5 and Yellow 6 in school food.

According to the Food and Drug Administration, there is no proven link between behavioral issues and synthetic dyes in children without specific medical conditions like ADHD.

However, Gabriel contradicted this by referring to a detailed evaluation conducted by the state of California. The 2021 assessment discovered a connection even in certain children who were not diagnosed with ADHD.

“In summary, our examination of human studies indicates that artificial food colorings are linked to negative neurobehavioral impacts, like lack of focus, increased activity, and agitation in susceptible children,” stated the authors of the evaluation. “Research shows a connection between food dye exposure and negative behavioral effects in children, regardless of pre-existing behavioral issues.”

The bill is a response to the increasing number of ADHD diagnoses reported by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Gabriel, who has a son with ADHD, expressed confusion over schools serving foods that could worsen symptoms of the disorder.

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