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California State Assembly Advances Landmark Legislation to Ban Harmful Chemicals in School Foods

For immediate release:

SACRAMENTO, CA — Today, the California State Assembly passed Assembly Bill (AB) 2316, the California School Food Safety Act, with bipartisan support. AB 2316 is a first-in-the-nation bill prohibiting California public schools from serving foods containing additives that have been linked to cancer, DNA damage, and developmental and neurobehavioral issues in children. This legislation would prohibit schools from serving foods containing six synthetic food dyes (Red 40, Yellow 5, Yellow 6, Blue 1, Blue 2, and Green 3) as well as titanium dioxide, a coloring agent that is often used in sunscreens, cosmetics, paints, and plastics. 

"Today’s strong bipartisan vote demonstrates that food safety and the health of our children transcend political divides," said Assemblymember Jesse Gabriel (D-Encino). "As a lawmaker, a parent, and someone who struggled with ADD, I find it unacceptable that we allow foods containing harmful additives that have been banned in other nations to be served in our schools. California has a responsibility to protect our students from harmful chemicals that can damage their bodies and interfere with their ability to learn."

The legislation was introduced following a report by the California EPA, which found that “consumption of synthetic food dyes can result in hyperactivity and other neurobehavioral problems in some children.” The study also noted that current FDA approvals of these chemicals are based on outdated, decades old research and that the percentage of American children diagnosed with Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) has increased dramatically in recent years. 

“Healthy, safe school meals are foundational to our students’ wellness and ability to learn. As someone who depended on school meals growing up, I know how critical it is that our children receive food at school that is nutritious and is never harmful,” said Tony Thurmond, California State Superintendent of Public Instruction. “AB 2316 is an important step forward to ensure that California’s schools are healthy and equitable learning environments for all.”

The introduction of AB 2316 follows last year’s successful passage of AB 418 (Gabriel), the California Food Safety Act, which banned the use of four dangerous chemicals from foods sold in California and helped to spark a national conversation about the need for the United States to modernize its antiquated food safety laws. Like the California Food Safety Act, AB 2316 would not ban specific foods or products, but rather encourage companies to make minor modifications to products sold in California and could help prompt a nationwide transition to safer alternative ingredients.

AB 2316 is supported by more than 70 organizations representing doctors, teachers, nurses, school employees, administrators, scientists, environmentalists, and consumer protection advocates. Following passage from the Assembly, AB 2316 now advances to the State Senate. 


Jesse Gabriel proudly represents the San Fernando Valley in the California State Legislature.