A bill proposed in the New York Senate (NYS) seeks to ban the use of five “five of the most pervasive and harmful food additives” in the state.

NYS Bill A6424, introduced by Democratic Senator Brian Kavanagh of the 27th District, is currently pending in the Agriculture Committee. If passed, it would prohibit the use of brominated vegetable oil (BVO), potassium bromate, propyl parabens, red dye 3, or titanium dioxide as a color or food additive, effective January 1, 2025. These chemicals are banned in other jurisdictions like the EU due to scientific research linking them to significant health harms. Bill A6424 specifically attributes nervous system damage to BVO, cancer to potassium bromate, hormone and reproductive system damage to propyl parabens, red dye 3 to cancer and behavioral problems, and titanium dioxide to DNA and immune system damage.

In the justification of NYS Bill A6424, California Assembly Bill 418 is cited as similar legislation, which passed the California State Assembly and moved to the Senate in May 2023. California Assembly Bill 418 seeks to ban from foods the same five chemicals listed in NYS Bill A6424, on the grounds of potential harms to human health, which the sponsor of the California bill asserts is due to lax oversight by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

Following the New York and California bills, a federal bill was also introduced to U.S. Congress also focusing on the safety of chemicals in foods and FDA’s oversight and reassessment of such chemicals. The congressional bill would create a specific office within FDA dedicated to the routine and systematic reassessment of chemical food additives with four of the first suggested ten chemicals for reassessment being chemicals that are also targeted by the New York and California bills (all but red dye 3).

With all the recent legislative activity surrounding chemical food additives and FDA’s role in ensuring the food safety of such chemicals, the agency recently clarified its current process for approving the use of chemicals in food, and addressed certain “loopholes” with which the California and congressional bills have raised issue. FDA also outlined an enhanced approach to regulating food chemical safety, in which a new framework for systematic post-market chemical reassessment is included, and argued that the agency requires additional resources and authorities to carry out this envisioned reassessment.