State bills call for warnings about risks associated with synthetic dyes & sugar-sweetened beverages

Source: iStock

Two California state senate bills would mandate controversial warnings on some foods and beverages, and if enacted could start a domino effect among other like-minded states, potentially creating a patchwork of laws and compliance headache for national brands.

State Sen. Bob Wieckowski, D-Fremont, Feb. 16 introduced Senate Bill 504 to require warnings on all foods sold in California with synthetic dyes.

He argues the legislation would “educate parents about the adverse effects of food dye,” including the potential connection to hyperactivity and other behavior problems.

For support, he points to a compilation of studies in the Center for Science in the Public Interest’s 2016 report Seeing Red: Time for Action on Dyes, which found adverse behavior linked to doses of dyes lower than those found in common children’s products.

CSPI lauds the effort as a “sensible and science-based” alternative to inaction at the national level.

“As long as 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 Jacobson says in a written statement.

It also encouraged FDA to take a step beyond the proposed legislation and phase out synthetic dyes that allegedly adversely affect some children.

FDA stands by dyes

Currently, FDA stands by the safety of approved color additives, including controversial Red 40 and Yellow 5, when used according to regulations. But it also acknowledges in a question and answer document prepared for consumers that was updated last February that “some evidence suggests that certain children may be sensitive to them.”

The agency adds that it is and “will continue to evaluate emerging science to ensure the safety of color additives approved for use.”

In the meantime, several major brands have removed or announced their intention to phase out synthetic colors from their foods and instead use natural alternatives.

Sugary beverage warnings

A second bill introduced Feb. 13 by California Senate Majority Leader Bill Monning, D-Monterey, also advocates for warnings on some sugar sweetened beverages sold in California.

The bill, SB 300, if enacted would require beverages sold in California with added sweeteners of 75 calories or more per 12 ounces to warn “drinking beverages with added sugar(s) contributes to obesity, type 2 diabetes and tooth decay.”

In a statement, he argues, the warning is necessary because “California continues to see a rise in obesity and type 2 diabetes among its residents,” and there is “strong and compelling scientific evidence [that] clearly shows drinking sodas, sports drinks and other sugary drinks heightens your risk of preventable chronic diseases.”

He added: “Consumers have a right to know about these potential harmful health impacts.”

This is not the first time Monning has introduced such legislation. The 2015 California Sugar-Sweetened Beverages Safety Warning Act SB203 – first introduced in 2014 – fell short of votes at the Senate Health Committee to move forward. 

Similar warnings also have been considered in San Francisco and New York.  

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