Memorandum in support of A6424A/S6055B and A9295/S8615

Org Support Memo New York Food Chemical Safety

The letter below (full text, without footnotes) is addressed to members of the New York State legislature.

To NY State Legislators:

The undersigned organizations support two important pieces of food safety legislation, A6424A/S6055B and A9295/S8615, sponsored by Assemblymember Dr. Anna Kelles and Senator Brian Kavanagh, that together will protect New Yorkers from seven unsafe food additives and promote greater transparency in food chemical safety.

For too long, the US Food and Drug Administration has failed New Yorkers. FDA is the federal agency responsible for ensuring the safety of substances added to foods both before and after they come to the market. Yet, frequently, the agency takes no action to protect consumers, even when safety risks are discovered. For example, FDA itself determined in 1990 that the food dye, Red 3, causes cancer when ingested by animals, banning it from cosmetics and topically applied drugs. While federal law prohibits human or animal carcinogens from being added to foods, FDA has taken no action to ban Red 3 from food in more than three decades since FDA determined it causes cancer. Several of the undersigned groups have petitioned the FDA to ban Red 3 in 2022, but the FDA has not yet ruled on this petition. Frustrated with federal inaction, consumers have turned to state lawmakers to seek stronger protections from dangerous food chemicals. A bill passed in California last year preventing the sale of foods containing Red 3, brominated vegetable oil (BVO), potassium bromate, and propylparaben in that state by 2027.

New York residents also deserve protection from dangerous chemicals. That is why we are grateful that a bill now being considered in New York, (A6424A/S6055B), will ban the sale of seven harmful food additives, including the four already banned in California, along with titanium dioxide (TiO2), azodicarbonamide (ADA) and butylated hydroxyanisole (BHA) by 2027. All seven of these chemicals have clear health risks. Four of them, Red 3, BHA, ADA, and potassium bromate, have the potential to cause cancer according to the FDA itself or other authorities, like the US National Toxicology Program and the World Health Organization. The other three, TiO2, BVO, and propylparaben, are linked to other serious adverse effects, like DNA damage, heart and thyroid toxicity, and reproductive harm. Most of these seven additives are banned or heavily restricted in the European Union and California. These risks may be higher for those especially susceptible to toxic exposures, like children and pregnant individuals.

In addition to failing to ban existing food chemicals when safety risks emerge, FDA has failed to ensure new chemicals are safe before coming to market. Instead, the agency has handed the reins to food and chemical companies by expanding a loophole that allows them to secretly bypass FDA approval for new food additives.

Currently, federal laws and regulations allow food companies to add new chemicals to our foods without even notifying FDA, let alone getting FDA approval, by secretly declaring the substance is “generally recognized as safe” or GRAS based on the opinions of individuals or panels convened and paid by the companies themselves. This violates basic principles of oversight and transparency and creates unnecessary opportunities for industry’s clear conflicts of interest to bias food chemical safety assessments. A9295/S8615 would take the secret out of GRAS by requiring industry to notify the state of NY of their GRAS determinations that have not been reviewed by FDA. This summary of the key safety information (not including trade secrets) would then be made publicly available by the state. In effect, this bill prevents industry from certifying in secret the safety of food chemicals and will enable public scrutiny of food chemical safety, the most important reform to the U.S. food chemical approval process in decades. Those who stand to make money from the sale of food additives should not be permitted to put new chemicals in our foods with no oversight or transparency.

We thank AM Kelles and Sen. Kavanagh for these important pieces of legislation.



Center for Science in the Public Interest

Thomas M. Galligan, PhD, Principal Scientist for Food Additives and Supplements 

To view the letter with footnotes and the full list of signatories, click the link below.

View Letter