New state report on synthetic food dye's effects on children shows the need for Wieckowski's SB 651

April 16, 2021

SACRAMENTO – A new state report released today finding that consuming synthetic food dyes can result in hyperactivity and other neurobehavioral problems in some children, demonstrates the need for Senate Bill 651 to require warning labels on products that contain the dyes, State Senator Bob Wieckowski (D-Fremont) said.

The report issued by the California Environmental Protection Agency’s Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment (OEHHA) also finds that current federal levels for safe intake of synthetic food dyes may not sufficiently protect children’s behavioral health because they were established decades ago and do not reflect newer research.

“SB 651 will enable parents to make informed decisions when they are shopping for their children by enhancing transparency and consumer knowledge of the adverse effects of these ingredients in children’s food and drinks,” said Wieckowski, who led the Legislature’s request for OEHHA to conduct the study. “This bill requires safety warnings based on OEHHA’s detailed scientific analysis. I thank OEHHA, the scientists at UC Berkeley and UC Davis and everyone else who participated in this valuable research.”

OEHHA said the report is the product of a two-year, multifaceted evaluation of seven synthetic food dyes that have been approved by the federal Food and Drug Administration. OEHHA extensively reviewed existing studies of the effects of these dyes on both humans and laboratory animals.

“Evidence shows that synthetic food dyes are associated with adverse neurobehavioral outcomes in some children,” said OEHHA Director Dr. Lauren Zeise in the press release announcing the report’s conclusions. “With increasing numbers of U.S. children diagnosed with behavioral disorders, this assessment can inform efforts to protect children from exposures that may exacerbate behavioral problems.”

“The science linking synthetic food dyes to hyperactivity and other troubling effects on children’s behavior is clearer than ever,” said Lisa Lefferts, senior scientist at Center for Science in the Public Interest.  “This bill will arm families with the information they need to make knowledgeable choices about foods that can adversely affect children’s behavior.”

“Kudos to Senator Wieckowski for securing the funds to study this important issue regarding the health of our children and a big thank you for responding with legislation that will put California in the lead of alerting consumers about these chemicals in our food and avoiding preventable health problems,” said Bill Allayaud, California director of governmental affairs for the Environmental Working Group.

Ed Howard, senior counsel at the University of San Diego School of Law’s Children’s Advocacy Institute, also highlighted the need to raise consumer awareness.

“Every mom and every dad deserves the chance to make informed decisions about what their growing children put in their bodies,” Howard said.  “The science is now clear that the minimum every parent deserves is to be cautioned about food dyes so they can make their own informed parenting choices.”

SB 651 is co-sponsored by Center for Science in the Public Interest, Environmental Working Group and Children’s Advocacy Institute.

The researchers working on the OEHHA study found that children are exposed to multiple dyes in a day, and that the highest exposures are usually from juice drinks and soft drinks. They also found that common exposures to Red No. 3 from a few foods may exceed the existing acceptable daily intake level. If the acceptable daily intake levels were based on newer studies, exposures to food dyes in foods would exceed the revised guidance, the report said.

SB 651 is scheduled to be heard in the Senate Health Committee on April 28. 

Senator Wieckowski represents the 10th District, which includes parts of Alameda and Santa Clara counties.