California may see less red this Valentine’s Day

February 14, 2024

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By Ryan Gooley, Recall Consultant

In a first of its kind move, California has banned four food additives in the state that are still allowed by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). The California Food Safety Act (CFSA), passed in late 2023, bans the manufacture, sale, and distribution of food products containing brominated vegetable oil, potassium bromate, propylparaben, and red dye No. 3. In the future, that may mean manufacturers need to turn to other ingredients to make their Valentine’s Day candy turn the color of love.

While the FDA has banned the use of red dye No. 3 in cosmetics, it and the three other additives covered by the CFSA are still allowed in food products by the FDA. In the European Union and other markets, all four additives have previously been banned after being linked to cancer, reproductive issues and developmental disorders. California is the first state to adopt a similar ban on these additives, but New York is advancing similar legislation—and other states may soon follow suit.

What this means

The CFSA doesn’t go into effect until 2027, giving food manufacturers and retailers just over three years to reformulate their products to remove the banned additives. However, some members of the industry have raised concerns that California’s new law will create a “patchwork” of state and federal laws that will increase food costs and the burden of compliance on manufacturers.

For some businesses who manufacture or sell their products in the EU and other markets where these additives are already banned, it may be easier to reformulate their products. For others who primarily sell in the U.S., it raises the question of whether to reformulate all their products or just the products they intend to sell or manufacture in California.

The FDA has currently given no indication that it plans to introduce a national ban on these four additives in food products. However, if more states pass similar bans and continue to create a fragmented regulatory landscape for the food industry, the FDA may be forced to recreate a cohesive national legislative framework.

In the meantime, it is time for food manufacturers who have operations in California to fall out of love with red dye No. 3 and begin preparing for the 2027 implementation of the CFSA. It will be important to closely monitor the FDA’s response to the legislation and whether the agency or other states decide that red dye No. 3 is “No Good 4 U.”

As lawmakers and regulators continue to prioritize consumer safety with laws like the CFSA, businesses will need to make every effort to prepare themselves for additional regulations and enhanced scrutiny. Maintaining a positive relationship with regulators and engaging third-party experts to assist with recall planning and execution or with litigation will remain crucial to protecting your brand and your bottom line.

Trusted by the world’s leading brands, Sedgwick brand protection has managed more than 7,000 of the most time-critical and sensitive product recalls in 100+ countries and 50+ languages, over 25 years. To find out more about our product recall and remediation solutions, visit our website.

Tags: Brand, brand crisis, Brand protection, brand protection and recall, Brand reputation, California, food and beverage, manufacturers, Preserving brands