Conservatives have been fairly quiet about the new law in California that bans certain additives used in candy and other foods, though not because they agree with it.
Dubbed the “Skittles ban” because the original version of the bill targeted the coloring agent in the popular Skittles candy, “The California Food Safety Act” (AB-418) prohibits “any food product manufactured, sold, delivered, distributed, held, or offered for sale in California after January 1, 2027, from containing brominated vegetable oil, potassium bromate, propylparaben, or red dye 3.” The bill was amended in the State Senate to remove titanium dioxide (a food color used to enhance food and over-the-counter products’ white color or opacity) from the list of banned additives.
Brominated vegetable oil (BVO) is used in drinks to prevent the citrus flavoring from floating to the top. Potassium bromate is a “flour improver” that strengthens dough and helps with a higher rise and greater oven spring. Propylparaben is a food additive used in baked goods, icing, cosmetics, and skin care products to extend shelf life. Red dye No. 3 (also known as Erythrosine or E 127) is an artificial coloring used in almost 3,000 food products.
The use of these chemicals has already been banned in the European Union (EU) and many other countries due to scientific research linking them to cancer, memory loss, reproductive issues, and behavioral and developmental issues in children.
Democrat Jesse Gabriel, who introduced the bill in the California State Assembly, said in a press release that “the Governor’s signature today represents a huge step forward in our effort to protect children and families in California from dangerous and toxic chemicals in our food supply.”
“Things like this aren’t partisan. They’re common sense,” said former Republican California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger. “I’m a small government guy. But I’ve also seen that sometimes, in a world where every big industry has an army of lobbyists, and our kids have no one fighting for them, government has to step in.”
One would normally expect conservatives to be vocal opponents of nanny-state bills like this. After all, they strongly objected to New York City’s short-lived ban on sweetened beverages larger than 16 ounces.
But back in August, angry conservatives targeted Skittles for boycotts over its pro-LGBTQ+ packaging in partnership with the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD). “Black Trans Lives Matter” was one of the slogans on bags of Skittles that conservatives objected to, so this may explain why conservatives have been somewhat quiet about the new California law, even though it does not directly target Skittles.
Conservatives would certainly agree with the criticisms of the bill by the National Confectioners Association, which said in a statement that California was “once again making decisions based on soundbites rather than science,” or the International Association of Color Manufacturers, which said that California’s actions “are not based on sound scientific assessments and undermine established regulations that have long ensured food safety.”
Laws like this are all based on the underlying assumption that the government should keep people from harming themselves with something they eat, drink, smoke, read, listen to, view, watch, or do.
But it is highly inconsistent for conservatives to oppose nanny-state laws like this and support other nanny-state laws that prohibit drug use.
One of the main reasons why conservatives support arresting and fining drug users or locking them in cages is because they say that using drugs can be dangerous, hazardous, unsafe, unhealthy, harmful, risky, ruinous, damaging, disastrous, destructive, and/or deadly.
Well, using a chainsaw can be dangerous. Drag racing can be hazardous. Jumping on a trampoline can be injurious. Mountain climbing can be unsafe. High fructose corn syrup can be unhealthy. Having plastic surgery can be harmful. Cliff diving can be risky. MMA fighting can be detrimental. Investing can be ruinous. Playing football can be damaging. Competitive eating can be disastrous. Overeating can be destructive. Skydiving can be deadly.
Yet conservatives would never say that the government should ban any of these things, so what is it about drugs that turns constitutional, limited-government, free-market conservatives into nanny statists and incorrigible drug warriors?
I cannot resist once again quoting the great Austrian economist Ludwig von Mises (1881–1973) from his magnum opus, Human Action: “Opium and morphine are certainly dangerous, habit-forming drugs. But once the principle is admitted that it is the duty of government to protect the individual against his own foolishness, no serious objections can be advanced against further encroachments.”