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Illinois is introducing a bill to ban food additives linked to health problems

Sen. Willie Preston, D-Chicago, has proposed a measure through the Senate on bipartisan lines that would ban four commonly used food additives.

Sen. Willie Preston, D-Chicago, has proposed a measure through the Senate on bipartisan lines that would ban four commonly used food additives.

Jerry Nowicki/Capitol News Illinois

The Illinois Senate has passed a bill that would ban four food additives found in common products, including candy, soda and baked goods.

Senate Bill 2637, known as the Illinois Food Safety Act, passed on a 37-15 vote and will move to the House of Representatives for consideration. The banned chemicals include brominated vegetable oil, red dye No. 3, propyl paraben and potassium bromate.

These additives are used in a wide variety of food products. Brominated vegetable oil is a stabilizer used to keep the citrus flavor in soft drinks from separating from solution and floating to the top. Propylparaben and potassium bromate are used in baked goods as preservatives. Red food coloring 3 is a common food coloring used in candy and other products.

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“This legislation is not intended to ban any product or take away our favorite foods,” bill sponsor Sen. Willie Preston, D-Chicago, said at a news conference. “This action sets a precedent for consumer health and safety to encourage food manufacturers to update their recipes and use safer alternatives.”

Last year, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration proposed revoking the license for brominated vegetable oil after a study found the chemical affects the thyroid gland and has negative health effects. According to a study by the Center for Science in the Public Interest, a nonprofit advocacy group, red dye 3 can cause cancer in animals. The International Agency for Research on Cancer, part of the World Health Organization, has determined that potassium bromate is a possible carcinogen.

The bill received bipartisan support in the Senate, with both Sen. Seth Lewis, R-Bartlett, and Sen. Steve McClure, R-Springfield, voting in favor.

“(Red Dye 3) was banned by the FDA for use in makeup more than 30 years ago. So the FDA doesn’t allow you to put it on your face as makeup. Yet kids eat this in candy,” McClure said on the Senate floor. “I find that scandalous. That is why I am voting for this bill.”

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Preston previously said he was considering adding titanium dioxide to the ban, but that plan was scrapped during negotiations. He said that if additional research becomes available, “we will explore that option at that time.” In 2021, the European Food Safety Authority said it was concerned that titanium dioxide could alter people’s DNA.

Industry groups such as the Illinois Manufacturers’ Association have opposed the bill throughout the legislative process. In January, the association released a statement opposing “this well-intentioned legislation,” claiming it would undermine the FDA and negatively impact Illinois’ economy because it creates “a confusing and costly patchwork of regulations would create’.

The National Confectioners Association released a similar statement, saying the bill would “increase food costs, undermine consumer confidence and create confusion around food safety.” The group also argued that food regulation “must rely on the scientific accuracy of the FDA.”

California passed a similar bill last year that will take effect in 2027, and the New York Senate is currently debating a similar bill. The food additives are already regulated or banned in parts of the European Union.

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The Illinois bill was amended from an earlier version to give retailers additional time to comply. The production of the additives would be banned from January 1, 2027, while the sale, supply, distribution and possession of products containing the additives would be banned from 2028.

“We have given retailers a one-year extension so they can comply with the rules,” Preston said. “It is not our intention at all to fine people.”

Violators are subject to fines of up to $5,000 for their first violation and up to $10,000 for each subsequent violation.

Both Lewis and McClure said while voting in favor of the bill that they would like to see future legislation clarify how fines arise and what constitutes a single violation of the law.

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Sen. Rachel Ventura, D-Joliet, said as Illinois faces issues like food insecurity and food deserts, this bill is needed to keep people safe.

“So we know that many families living in poor areas tend to go to convenience stores for their groceries,” she said at a news conference. “We need these foods to be safe to consume, especially if they eat them daily or several times a day.”