LETTER TO THE EDITOR: ‘Do or dye’ expertise on food additives should be left to the FDA

LETTER TO THE EDITOR: ‘Do or dye’ expertise on food additives should be left to the FDA

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is responsible for evaluating the safety of food ingredients and additives. Lately, state legislators have overstepped their remit with regards to our food system, opening the door for increased food costs and confusion around food safety.

Read my Chicago Sun-Times letter to the editor, which published on January 26, 2024, in response to a recent editorial on this topic:

A Jan. 24 editorial in the Sun-Times (“Keep red dye No. 3, other potentially harmful additives out of food to protect Illinoisans’ health”) expressed support for a legislative proposal that would ban food and color additives, which the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has approved. This is a complete overstep by legislators who are out of their depth when it comes to our nation’s science-based food safety system.

Illinoisans should rely on the scientific rigor of the FDA in terms of evaluating the safety of food ingredients and additives, not the state legislature. The proposed bill would replace a uniform national food safety system with a patchwork of inconsistent state requirements created by legislative fiat that will increase food costs, undermine consumer confidence and create confusion around food safety.

The FDA continuously reviews food additives and proactively addresses consumer concerns. In fact, a number of the ingredients and additives in the proposed ban are currently under FDA review or were recently reviewed. In the case of brominated vegetable oil (BVO), the FDA recently conducted its own studies and has initiated steps to remove BVO from the U.S. food supply. This is how our food safety system was designed to work, and it’s a real-time example of it working. The proposed bill would also ban an additional additive, titanium dioxide. This ignores recent findings that the color additive is safe, by the FDA in 2021 and a World Health Organization expert committee in October 2023.

The U.S. food system is the envy of the world, and the FDA is fulfilling its responsibility to ensure that it stays that way. Illinois legislators should leave these science-based decisions to the experts.

John Downs, president and CEO, National Confectioners Association