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CR endorses New York bills to ban harmful food additives and create greater transparency when additives are introduced without FDA safety checks

Bills by Assemblymember Kelles and Senator Kavanagh aim to protect New Yorkers at a time when FDA oversight has fallen short  

ALBANY, NY — Consumer Reports endorsed new legislation today by Assemblymember Dr. Anna Kelles and Senator Brian Kavanagh that will help protect New Yorkers from seven unsafe food additives and require public disclosure of new additives secretly introduced by food manufacturers when they exploit a loophole in federal law that enables them to bypass FDA approval.

“The FDA’s system for ensuring that food additives are safe is broken,” said Brian Ronholm, director of food safety at Consumer Reports. “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 they introduce new chemicals in food products without FDA review.”

One of the bills (A6424/S6055A) bans seven harmful food additives that have been linked to a number of serious health risks. Four of those chemicals, Red 3; butylated hydroxyanisole (BHA); azodicarbonamide (ADA); and potassium bromate, have the potential to cause cancer, according to the FDA itself or other public health authorities, like the U.S. National Toxicology Program and World Health Organization.

The other three chemicals, titanium dioxide, brominated vegetable oil, and propyl paraben are linked to other serious health risks, including DNA damage, heart and thyroid toxicity, and reproductive harm. Children and pregnant individuals are considered particularly vulnerable to the health risks posed by the seven food additives included in the bill.

Most of these seven additives have already been banned or severely restricted by the European Union. Last year, California passed legislation that bans four of the food chemicals included in the New York bill beginning in 2027: Red 3, brominated vegetable oil, propyl paraben, and potassium bromate.

S8615 would help shine a spotlight on a loophole in federal law that allows food manufacturers to secretly introduce new food additives without approval by the FDA. Current federal law enables food companies to bypass FDA pre-market safety checks if those ingredients are already widely used and “generally regarded as safe (GRAS).”  Companies are allowed to decide for themselves what ingredients qualify as GRAS and are not required to report those designations to the FDA. Thousands of substances have been added under the rule over the past few decades.

S8165 requires food companies to notify the state of New York when they introduce a new ingredient that hasn’t been reviewed by the FDA under the GRAS loophole. This information would then be disclosed to the public so that that the safety of these chemicals could be subject to greater scrutiny.

Michael McCauley, michael.mccauley@consumer.org