The movement to ban certain additives in food or beverages that started last year in California and spread this year first to Illinois has now reached as far as the Empire State.

Two New York State lawmakers introduced related bills to protect consumers from dangerous known and unknown additives used in foods and beverages.

The first bill, A6424A/S6055B, would prohibit the use of seven dangerous and unnecessary additives in foods or drinks sold in New York state: azodicarbonamide, brominated vegetable oil (BVO), butylated hydroxyanisole (BHA), potassium bromate, propylparaben, Red 3, and titanium dioxide. 

All but BHA are banned in the European Union. Last year, California enacted legislation to eliminate BVO, potassium bromate, propylparaben, and Red 3 from foods and drinks sold in that state by 2027. 

New York’s prohibition would take effect two years sooner in 2025.

The second bill, S08615/A9295, would require companies to disclose to the state of New York when they add chemicals to foods and drinks that the company secretly self-determines are “generally recognized as safe” or GRAS, without notifying the FDA. 

While the FDA does approve a small fraction of new food chemicals, it does not require premarket approval, notice, or safety review for the vast majority of chemicals that are self-determined by the companies as GRAS. These GRAS determinations can currently be conducted secretly by people paid by the companies without notifying the FDA or the public.

Both bills are sponsored by Sen. Brian Kavanagh and Assemblymember Anna Kelles, who holds a doctorate in nutritional epidemiology.

Support for the two bills comes from the Center for Science in the Public Interest, Interfaith Public Health Network, NYS American Academy of Pediatrics, Clean+Healthy, Consumer Reports, Environmental Working Group, and others, say the bills close gaps left open by the FDA. 

The FDA eliminated the synthetic dye Red 3 from cosmetics and topical drugs in the 1990s when it learned it caused cancer when eaten by laboratory animals. Yet, it is still allowed to be used in food and oral drugs. 

“New Yorkers deserve the highest level of protection when it comes to the safety of the food we eat,” said Sen. Kavanagh. “State law has long included the authority to regulate what goes into our food, but New York has generally deferred to the federal government; such deference is not warranted concerning these seven additives, which pose significant health risks. Nor should we defer to the secrecy of the federal process regarding new chemicals that food companies add to our food without any public disclosure or review by the FDA. This legislation will ensure transparency and permit public scrutiny of food chemical safety.”

“For too long, the FDA has failed to take action to protect consumers from toxic chemicals found in our food,” said Assemblymember Kelles. “I am proud to sponsor legislation to ban seven of these additives that are linked to serious adverse health effects, like DNA damage, heart and thyroid toxicity, and reproductive harm. We also must close a loophole allowing food and chemical companies to bypass FDA approval for new food additives irresponsibly.  My legislation would remove GRAS’s secret by requiring the industry to notify New York of their GRAS determinations that the FDA has not reviewed.”

Like the legislation enacted in California banning the use of four food additives, the New York bill banning seven dangerous additives would reverberate far beyond the state’s borders: Food manufacturers complying with it may well implement the changes nationwide. Such bills are also likely to incentivize officials at the FDA to catch up to the states and eliminate the use of chemicals in food nationwide.

According to CSPI, the second New York bill, requiring disclosure of chemicals not disclosed to FDA, would also have nationwide impact.

“These bills would introduce the most important reforms to the U.S. food chemical review process in decades,” said CSPI regulatory counsel Jensen Jose. “Not only can the state of New York ban harmful additives, it can shed new light on the chemical safety decisions the food industry currently makes in secret by making these safety decisions accessible to everyone.”

“These two bills will increase transparency and protect consumers from toxic chemicals in New York’s food supply,” said Environmental Working Group policy director Jessica Hernandez. “Without federal action, it’s up to states like New York to keep us safe from additives linked to health harms in the foods we eat and feed our families.”

“The FDA’s system for ensuring that food additives are safe is broken,” said Consumer Reports director of food safety Brian Ronholm. “For too long, the FDA has been unable to keep up with the latest research documenting that some chemicals allowed in food pose unacceptable risks to our health. These bills will protect the public and help fill the regulatory gap by banning certain harmful food additives and requiring greater transparency from manufacturers when introducing new chemicals in food products without FDA review.”

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