- California State Sen. Bob Wieckowski has introduced a bill requiring warning labels on food containing artificial colors in California, according to a release from his office.
- The bill would make it a crime to sell artificially colored products in the state without a warning label on the package or bin where the product is sold. The bill would require that warnings tell consumers that synthetic dyes can cause behavior problems or hyperactivity in children, according to the bill.
- In the press release announcing the legislation, Wieckowski states that similar labels are currently in use in Europe. “It’s important for parents to have this information as they seek ways to help their children who suffer from behavioral problems,” Wieckowski said. “Raising awareness through warning labels will educate parents about the adverse effects of food dye and empower them to make better-informed choices when they are shopping."
Artificial colors have become targeted by scientists and consumers over the last several years — and manufacturers have taken notice. After a 2007 study that indicated artificial food dyes make children hyperactive, consumers have become increasingly aware of the dyes in their food. In response to consumer pressure, manufacturers have been working to reformulate their products to look and taste the same, while using fewer chemicals.
The Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) has been leading the charge to get the Food and Drug Administration to ban artificial food dyes from products. No action has come from the federal government on this issue yet. Not surprisingly, CSPI is endorsing the California legislation.
“As long as the FDA is going to remain firmly planted on the sidelines, it makes perfect sense for California and other states to protect kids and their families from synthetic dyes,” CSPI Executive Director Michael F. Jacobson said in the press release for the proposed legislation.
Legislative action on artificial colors at the state level could spur movement on the federal level — something that was the case with GMO legislation. For years, many consumers wanted food labeling to indicate whether a product contains ingredients from genetically modified organisms. The federal government did not move on it, but Vermont's state legislature did: The state passed the nation's first statewide GMO labeling law in 2014, which was set to go into effect on July 1, 2016. However, the complications arising from the new law — manufacturers would have been subject to different labeling requirements in different states — spurred the federal government into action. Former president Obama signed the national GMO labeling law, which nullified Vermont's state law, in July 2016.
Will this California bill become law and eventually spark federal action on artificial colors in food? Only time — and the legislative process — will tell. According to the state's bill tracker, it was formally proposed on Feb. 16 and assigned to the Rules Committee for a potential hearing.