Illinois Moves to Ban Harmful Food Chemicals

By: Ashmar Mandou

Lawndale News Chicago's Bilingual Newspaper - EducationAfter a law banning harmful food chemicals passed in California, Illinois is now following suit. Secretary of State Alexi Giannoulias, State Senator Willie Preston (D-Chicago), and State Representative Anne Stava-Murray (D-Downers Grove) introduced legislation to ban harmful chemicals in candy, soda, and other highly-processed, packaged foods being sold in Illinois. “Our goal with this legislation is to create a healthier marketplace for Illinois families,” Giannoulias said. “The purpose of this legislation isn’t to ban any products or take food off shelves; it’s to ensure food manufacturers update recipes to use alternative, safer ingredients that are already used in other places around the world, including soon in other parts of the U.S.”

The proposed measure would ban the following five potentially harmful chemicals found in food and drink products from being sold in Illinois: brominated vegetable oil, potassium bromate, proylparaben, red dye no. 3 and titanium dioxide, which is an additive used and approved for use in sunscreen and candy products like Skittles. “People should be able to trust that the food they buy won’t lead to deadly diseases such as cancer. That’s why I’ve drafted and proposed SB2637 to ban Red Dye #3, Brominated Vegetable Oil, Potassium Bromate, Propylparaben, and Titanium Dioxide,” Preston said.

The Illinois Food Safety Act – or Senate Bill 2637 – calls for prohibiting the use of brominated vegetable oil, potassium bromate, propylparaben, Red Dye No. 3 and titanium dioxide – all of which have been linked to serious health problems, including hyperactivity, nervous system damage, reproductive issues, hormonal damage and increased risk of cancer. Because of health concerns, the use of these chemicals in food items is already prohibited in the European Union and several other countries. Last fall, California enacted a law that banned four of the five additives, which takes effect in 2027, and New York is considering similar legislation.

“Illinois families should not have to worry that the food they buy for themselves and their kids may contain harmful substances that can cause neurological and reproductive symptoms, or even cancer,” Stava-Murray said. “When new scientific data casts doubt on whether an ingredient or additive is safe to consume, it’s important that that substance be removed from the food supply.” The advocates emphasized the law is aimed at protecting children, who are more likely to consume food products that contain these chemicals. Children are also at a greater risk to suffer the negative impacts from food additives because their developing organs are more vulnerable.

“The FDA has failed for decades to keep us safe from toxic food chemicals,” said Scott Faber, Senior Vice President of Government Affairs for the Environmental Working Group (EWG), a non-profit, non-partisan organization that empowers people to live healthier lives in a healthier environment. “In the absence of federal regulation, it falls to the states to keep us safe from toxic chemicals in cereals, salad dressings, candy and other foods our families enjoy. We applaud the Secretary and Illinois lawmakers seeking to remove these additives from Illinois’ food supply.”

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