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The Pony Express

The student news site of Stillwater Area High School

The Pony Express

The student news site of Stillwater Area High School

The Pony Express

Stillwater Pony Express

California leads fight for a healthier country

Photo by Bailey Holmes
A shopping cart is filled with highly processed and unhealthy foods available at any grocery store. As Christmas candy shopping is on the rise this time of year, it might be worth it to take a second look at what is actually in classic favorites such as candy canes and Pez.

As an effort to move towards a healthier human population and environment, California has recently passed a law, that bans four additives commonly found in highly processed foods. The ban is in response to a long line of studies done that prove the major health risks that come with consuming these ingredients, but a positive unintentional step forward to improve the effects of plastic pollution and climate change as a whole comes with it as well.

The four chemicals affected by the law are red dye 3, potassium bromate, brominated vegetable oil and propylparaben. Red dye 3 specifically has been proven to be carcinogenic and was banned in cosmetics about five years ago, so why is it taking America so long to ban it from the products being digested in our bodies?

“I think it is mainly just because of money,” junior Eve Pagan said. “The people in this economy are so driven by their self-interest and their own need to make millions of dollars and they think the only way to do that is by lying to people about what they are consuming.”

Although big businesses are not lying directly on the label about what is in their products, the lack of information and awareness around the effects of these ingredients on the body is incredibly harmful to the public. Consumer sales of all products with one or more of the additives in them have gone down significantly since the law surfaced and the news is raging with concerns about the effect these ingredients have on youth specifically as they begin consuming more and more highly processed foods at such young ages.

When you start to ban preservatives and things like them in foods, it will shift the focus to more local foods or bulk food stores, which will inherently get rid of plastic.

— Megan Hickinbotham

University of Minnesota chemist and environmental health scientist, Dr. Matt Simcik, explained one of the main concerns with the additives, “all of these chemicals are meant to keep things from spoiling, which means just preventing bacterial growth. So if you are killing growth, you always have to be a little bit concerned about that getting digested into the human body.”

As far as the environmental effects go, the one thing that all processed foods have in common is the extreme amount of plastic packaging that comes along with them. As the country and world begin to realize the health risks of these foods and more and more bans on specific brands or products as a whole slowly get placed, naturally, a reduction in plastic pollution will follow. Along with that, the lengthy production process of these foods is responsible for over 30 percent of total greenhouse gas emissions in the world. Due to how large of a number that is, truly any kind of restrictions about what chemicals are being processed and how frequently produced they are will help the environment as a whole.

Environmentalist and sustainability coordinator, Megan Hickinbotham, stated “when you start to ban preservatives and things like them in foods, it will shift the focus to more local foods or bulk food stores, which will inherently get rid of plastic.”

Although it has taken a while for any kind of restriction to be placed on the chemicals, it does seem that a country-wide ban will be in the works sooner rather than later. California is known for leading the way on progressive laws, so the hope is that states such as New York and Minnesota will be the first to follow. Unfortunately, the law will not fully be in effect until Jan. 1, 2027, to give companies buffer time to figure out alternate ingredients to replace the original chemicals.

Hickinbothom also said that she believes other states such as Minnesota will follow suit with the ban, “especially knowing about the science behind it, and knowing that the EU has already banned similar substances and additives.”

This law is the first step towards a healthier country and environment. As awareness spreads and society begins to stand up for human health over the success of big business corporations, there will hopefully be just as much focus on preserving a sustainable future for youth, as there is on preserving unsustainable foods.

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About the Contributor
Bailey Holmes
Bailey Holmes, Photography Editor-in-Chief
Senior Bailey Holmes is an outdoor lover, adventure seeker, and avid Nordic ski racer. She loves expressing her thoughts and opinions through words, which is where she found her other love of writing for the newspaper. She started photography second semester of her junior year and immediately found a passion for it. She is looking forward to continuing her writing and photo skills as an Editor-in-Chief for the Pony Express throughout her last year of high school.

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    AnnaFeb 6, 2024 at 9:18 am

    This is a well written story. More states in the United States should take after California to care about their citizens health. Now that I know how bad the four chemicals that California banned are for our health I will be watching for them in my food.