True Cellular Formulas Team - July 17, 2023

Beyond the Bill 418 Ban

The Hidden Dangers in Our Processed Foods

Beyond the Bill 418 Ban

The California State Assembly recently proposed a bill, AB 418, aiming to ban several ingredients commonly found in processed foods due to their potential health hazards. Among these ingredients is the infamous red dye No. 3, a substance popular in many candies, including Skittles. However, while this legislative step should be celebrated as progress, it's essential to understand that our pantry staples often harbor many more potentially harmful ingredients. In this article, we will shed light on these unacknowledged villains hiding in our favorite treats and discuss how we can make healthier food choices.

Background Information on Assembly Bill 418

Introduced by Assemblymember Jesse Gabriel and his fellow Democratic lawmaker, Buffy Wicks, AB 418 aims to prohibit the manufacture, sale, or distribution of food products in California containing several substances deemed harmful. These include red dye No. 3, titanium dioxide, potassium bromate, brominated vegetable oil, and propylparaben. If passed, the bill would take effect from January 1, 2025.[1]

These ingredients, while sanctioned for use in the United States, have been banned in the European Union due to their potential health hazards. For instance, scientific studies have linked these chemicals to an increased risk of cancer, harm to the reproductive and immune systems, and behavioral issues in children.[2]

Red dye No. 3, in particular, has been a topic of concern, with an estimated 3,000 products listed on the Environmental Working Group’s Eat Well Guide containing this ingredient. These products range from popular candies, like Skittles, Nerds, and Trolli gummies, to protein shakes and instant food products.[3]

The Other Side of the Coin: Opposition to AB 418

Despite the presented health concerns, there are significant dissenting voices against this proposed legislation. The National Confectioners Association, a Washington, DC-based trade organization, vehemently opposes AB 418. They argue that all ingredients listed in the bill have been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Thus, they believe there is no substantial evidence to warrant a ban on these ingredients.[4]

Interestingly, these chemicals gain approval through a loophole in the FDA’s Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act known as the Generally Recognized as Safe rule. This rule states that certain additives are not subject to premarket approval requirements if they meet specific criteria that experts deem safe for consumption. However, it is important to note that the federal levels for safe intake of food dyes like red dye No. 3 might not be protective enough, according to a study by the California Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment.[5]

Despite the stance of the National Confectioners Association, it's clear that more research is needed to fully understand the potential long-term health impacts of these additives. Yet, it's equally critical to acknowledge that this bill only targets a fraction of the problem. The broader issue we face involves the numerous other potentially harmful ingredients lurking in our processed foods.

The Issue with Processed Foods: It’s Not Just Red Dye No. 3

Diving deeper into the world of processed foods, we find an array of harmful substances beyond the ones listed in AB 418. For instance, excess sugar, trans fats, and vegetable oils, often present in these foods, pose significant health risks.[6-8]

High fructose corn syrup, a common sweetener in sodas and candies, has been associated with obesity and diabetes.[7] Similarly, trans fats, found in various baked and fried foods, can raise your bad (LDL) cholesterol levels and lower your good (HDL) cholesterol levels, increasing your risk of heart disease.[6] Finally, excess vegetable oils, like palm oil and soybean oil, often present in processed foods, can contribute to inflammation due to their high omega-6 fatty acid content.[8]

Take a seemingly innocent box of cookies, for instance. It likely contains high fructose corn syrup, trans fats, and vegetable oils, among other additives. Now, think about how often such food items feature in our daily diet – the health implications can be staggering.

Health Risks Associated with Common Additives in Processed Foods

The health risks linked to common additives are far-reaching and serious. Excessive sugar intake, particularly in the form of high fructose corn syrup, can lead to obesity, insulin resistance, and type 2 diabetes. Similarly, the chronic consumption of trans fats can increase the risk of heart disease, the leading cause of death worldwide.[7]

Excessive intake of certain vegetable oils, such as soybean and corn oil, can also be problematic. These oils are high in omega-6 fatty acids but low in omega-3s, an imbalance that contributes to systemic inflammation. Chronic inflammation, in turn, has been linked to an increased risk of diseases like heart disease, cancer, and autoimmune disorders.[8]

Thus, the persistent consumption of processed foods loaded with these harmful additives can result in several health problems, ranging from metabolic disorders to chronic diseases.

The Problem of Consumption

The pervasiveness of processed foods in our diets is a crucial part of the problem. Statistics show that the average American diet is heavily reliant on processed foods, which make up about 60% of total calorie intake.[9] These foods are cheap, readily available, heavily marketed, and designed to be tasty – all factors contributing to their widespread consumption.

However, a diet rich in processed foods comes with substantial health risks. It is typically high in unhealthy fats, sugars, and sodium while being low in fiber and essential nutrients. Over time, such dietary patterns can lead to obesity, heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and various other health problems. Therefore, it's clear that a shift towards healthier, less processed foods is vital for our overall well-being.

Choosing Healthier Alternatives

While the task may seem daunting, transitioning towards a healthier diet doesn't need to be a sudden, dramatic change. Small, consistent changes can make a big difference over time. The first step is becoming a savvy consumer: learn to read and understand food labels. Beyond just calorie content, look at the list of ingredients. Ingredients are listed by quantity, from highest to lowest. If sugar or vegetable oils are among the first few ingredients, it might be best to choose another product.

Next, try to incorporate more whole foods into your diet. Whole foods, including fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, and whole grains, are rich in essential nutrients and fiber, and they lack the harmful additives commonly found in processed foods. Consider making homemade versions of your favorite processed foods. Not only can this be a fun activity, but it also gives you complete control over the ingredients used.

The Role of Policy and Regulation

While individual actions are crucial, policy and regulation play a significant role in shaping our food environment. AB 418 is a step in the right direction, showing that lawmakers are beginning to acknowledge the potential harms of certain food additives. However, there is a need for more comprehensive policies that address the broader issue of unhealthy additives in processed foods.

Policies can target various aspects of this issue, from limiting harmful additives in foods to promoting clear and informative food labeling. It's also essential to address the marketing of unhealthy foods, particularly towards children, and to ensure that healthier food options are affordable and accessible to everyone.


While the proposed ban on certain ingredients in California is a step towards improving the safety of our food, it's important to remember that there are many other potentially harmful substances in our diet. Ultimately, both informed individual choices and supportive policies are needed to shift towards a healthier, less processed food environment. The dangers lurking in processed foods go far beyond a single ingredient – it's high time we looked at the bigger picture.

  1. "California Assembly Passes First-in-Nation Ban on Chemicals in Processed Foods." Environmental Working Group, 2023,
  2. "Dangerous Ingredients That Are in Our Food But Shouldn't Be." Consumer Reports, 2023,
  3. "Popular Easter candy Peeps contains additive linked to cancer, Consumer Reports says." CNN, 2023,
  4. "California bill aims to ban sale of popular candies containing ingredients that may cause health issues." CNN, 2023,
  5. Miller, Mark D et al. “Potential impacts of synthetic food dyes on activity and attention in children: a review of the human and animal evidence.” Environmental health : a global access science source vol. 21,1 45. 29 Apr. 2022, doi:10.1186/s12940-022-00849-9
  6. Dhaka, Vandana et al. “Trans fats-sources, health risks and alternative approach - A review.” Journal of food science and technology vol. 48,5 (2011): 534-41. doi:10.1007/s13197-010-0225-8
  7. Mai, Brandon H, and Liang-Jun Yan. “The negative and detrimental effects of high fructose on the liver, with special reference to metabolic disorders.” Diabetes, metabolic syndrome and obesity : targets and therapy vol. 12 821-826. 27 May. 2019, doi:10.2147/DMSO.S198968
  8. Mboma, Jean et al. “Effects of Cyclic Fatty Acid Monomers from Heated Vegetable Oil on Markers of Inflammation and Oxidative Stress in Male Wistar Rats.” Journal of agricultural and food chemistry vol. 66,27 (2018): 7172-7180. doi:10.1021/acs.jafc.8b01836
  9. Baraldi, Larissa Galastri et al. “Consumption of ultra-processed foods and associated sociodemographic factors in the USA between 2007 and 2012: evidence from a nationally representative cross-sectional study.” BMJ open vol. 8,3 e020574. 9 Mar. 2018, doi:10.1136/bmjopen-2017-020574

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