Everyone's favorite nanny state is back at it making international headlines, as there's a bill before the California legislature that would ban products containing Red No. 3, a.k.a erythrosine, which is used in making everything from marshmallow Peeps to cocktail cherries.
Assemblymember Jesse Gabriel [D-San Fernando Valley] is the author of the bill, and as the Associated Press reports, Gabriel's proposed bill suggests banning a group of cancer-causing chemicals that are already banned in Europe, and effectively forcing candy makers to adjust and use different ingredients. But pegged to Easter weekend, it sounds like a story about banning Peeps, and that is turning heads.
In addition to Red Dye No. 3 — which federal regulators banned from use in makeup, but not food, over 30 years ago — the bill would also ban titanium dioxide, which is used to make Skittles and Hot Tamales, and two other additives used in packaged baked goods, potassium bromate and propylparaben, and brominated vegetable oil, which is used in some sodas.
Gabriel says he doesn't want to ban the companies or the products themselves, just these specific, potentially dangerous chemicals.
"They still produce Skittles in other parts of the world. What they do is they take out these toxic ingredients, and they replace them with something else," Gabriel said to the AP. "What we really want is for these companies to make the same minor modifications to their recipes that they made in Europe and elsewhere."
The candy lobby is of course pushing back and saying it's all more complicated than that and it could be cost-prohibitive for small, regional candymakers, etc.
But this is just another example of where California can, and probably should, push the private sector and the federal government to action by threatening them with the loss of an enormous market, which is our state.
The playbook has already been used to force carmakers into lowering emissions across the spectrum of vehicles, and to push more of the country toward adopting electrical vehicles sooner.
As the AP notes, "Consumer safety groups have tried for years to get the [FDA] to ban [Red No. 3] in food to no avail," and "Researchers have since linked the chemical to other health problems besides cancer, including hyperactivity and other neurobiological behaviors in some children."
So, sensational headline aside, we should probably not be eating so many Peeps until this bill passes.
Top image: Cupcakes topped off with Just Born Quality Confections' Peeps in a supermarket in New York on April 3, 2007. 93 year old family owned Just Born Quality Confections has just launched its first digital marketing campaign targeting millennial mothers. The company is hoping for a 10% boost in sales over their usual low single digit growth. (Photo by Richard Levine/Corbis via Getty Images)