Are Skittles dangerous? A California bill aims to ban chemicals in candy.

A proposed bill would prohibit chemicals used in processed foods, including Skittles and Hot Tamales

A bill from a California lawmaker seeks to ban some chemicals from food. (Tamar Dundua/Getty Images/iStockphoto)
7 min

Lawmakers in California want to ban chemicals in popular rainbow candies and processed foods — including Skittles, Nerds, Hot Tamales, cake icing and Strawberry Nesquik.

A proposed bill is seeking to halt the manufacture, sale or distribution of any food product in the state containing red dye No. 3, titanium dioxide, potassium bromate, brominated vegetable oil or propylparaben, arguing that those chemicals are “dangerous” and already banned in the European Union and other countries.

Despite headlines about a possible “ban” on Skittles in California, that isn’t about to happen — it’s unclear whether the bill has enough momentum to pass, and it would still have a long way to go before it could become legislation.

Even the lawmaker behind the bill says, “there’s a zero percent chance this is actually going to result in a ban of Skittles.” Instead, Jesse Gabriel (D-Woodland Hills) hopes that companies will adjust their recipes as they have done for other countries.

Several food industry groups sent a letter last week against the proposed bill saying that “All five of these additives have been thoroughly reviewed by the federal and state systems and many international scientific bodies and continue to be deemed safe.”

The National Confectioners Association said in a statement Thursday that “Food safety is the number one priority for U.S. confectionery companies, and we do not use any ingredients in our products that do not comply with the FDA’s strictest safety standards.”

Here’s what you need to know about each of the chemicals, and whether they are dangerous.