Sample Letter to support SB 651

Re: SB 651 – Reducing Exposure to Synthetic Food Dyes Act (SUPPORT)

Dear Senator Pan:

[Name of your organization] supports SB 651, the Reducing Exposure to Synthetic Food Dyes Act, which would require safety warning labels on foods and beverages in California that contain synthetic dyes.

California’s respected Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment (OEHHA) has concluded that consumption of synthetic food dyes can result in hyperactivity and other neurobehavioral problems in some children, after carefully and systematically reviewing all of the evidence (27 clinical trials in humans, as well as animal, and mechanistic evidence), conducting its own exposure assessment, and subjecting its findings to peer review, in the most sophisticated and rigorous assessment undertaken to date on the relationship between synthetic food dyes and neurobehavioral effects in children.[1]

The report states, “At a minimum, in the short-term, the neurobehavioral effects of synthetic food dyes in children should be acknowledged and steps taken to reduce exposure to these dyes in children.” SB 651 would do just that.

Specifically, SB 651 will:

  • Require that dyed foods inform the consumer that synthetic food dyes are known to cause or worsen behavioral problems in children.
  • Apply to a person that manufactures, packages, sells, offers to sell, distributes, or imports for sale or distribution within the state food containing synthetic dyes.
  • Require the label to be located on the principal display panel and be prominently placed in a way that can be understood by consumers.
  • Require restaurants when selling food with synthetic dyes to include the information on their menus or menu boards.
  • Not apply to alcoholic beverages or medical food.

Food companies routinely add synthetic dyes to foods and drinks, especially those heavily marketed to children, who consume more food per pound of body weight than adults. One study found that more than 90% of child–oriented candies, fruit-flavored snacks, and drink mixes contain synthetic dyes.[2]  With consumer pressure, some conscientious restaurants and retailers such as Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s have taken steps to ensure their food and drink offerings are free from synthetic dyes. However, not every family can equally access dye-free foods. Low-income families often have limited access to fresh produce in their communities, while unhealthy, processed foods and beverage products containing synthetic dyes are abundant and affordable. These synthetic ingredients lack nutritional value and are frequently used as cheap replacements for healthful ingredients.

In fact, the authoritative OEHHA report provides the first substantial data on how poverty level and race impact exposure to synthetic food dyes.  It found that non-Hispanic Black children and women of childbearing age have significantly higher intake of dyes, in comparison to their non-Hispanic White, Hispanic, or Asian counterparts.  In addition, it found that total food dye exposures are significantly higher among women with lower income when compared to women with higher income.

The report also concluded that FDA’s “safe” levels, or Acceptable Daily Intakes (ADIs) are not adequate to protect children.  According to the report, these levels are based on decades-old studies incapable of detecting the types of behavioral effects measured in later studies.

Optional: Include a couple of sentences about why your organization supports and/or cares about SB 651.

Everyone should have the right to be informed about chemicals in the food they buy for their families that may affect children’s behavior.  For these reasons, [Name of your organization] supports SB 651 and respectfully asks for your “Aye” vote on this bill.

Sincerely,

[Your name and title]

cc:          Senator Bob Wieckowski

[1] California Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment. Synthetic Food Dye Risk Assessment. https://oehha.ca.gov/risk-assessment/synthetic-food-dye-risk-assessment

[2]  Batada A, Jacobson MF. Prevalence of artificial food colors in grocery store products marketed to children. Clin Pediatr (Phils). 2016;55(12):1113-9.