By: Elizabeth Tansing, Vice President, State Government Affairs, FMI 

California State CapitolThis year, 2,066 bills were introduced for consideration in the Golden State and of those, 890 were signed into law by Governor Gavin Newsom (D). Both the California Grocers Association and the California Retail Association must wade through this cacophony of legislation to find what helps and what hinders the grocery retail industry. And as it turns out, the grocery industry outside of California’s borders must also pay attention. 

California’s continued efforts to legislate for the entire country pressed on in the form of several bills signed into law in the fall: SB 253, SB 261, AB 418 and AB 899. And we’d be remiss if we didn’t reference 2018’s   Proposition 12, Farm Animal Confinement – a law that, among other requirements, orders hog producers across America to abide by certain regulations in order to sell pork in California, that was upheld by the Supreme Court of the United States. 

Enacted legislation, SB 253, “Climate Corporate Data Reporting” in many ways surpasses the scope of the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) proposed rule on climate reporting. It requires public disclosure of scopes 1 and 2 greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) by 2026 and scope 3 GHG emissions by 2027. The governor also signed SB 261, which is the reporting disclosure component. For more information on both bills, read FMI’s SB 253 issue paper

Upon signing AB 418, “The California Food Safety Act,” which bans certain food additives including bromate by 2027, Governor Newsom wrote in a letter to the Assembly: “Signing this into law is a positive step forward on these four food additives until the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) reviews and establishes national updated safety levels for these additives.” Notably, one month later, on November 2, 2023, the FDA proposed to revoke the regulation authorizing the use of brominated vegetable oil (BVO) in food. (For further reading on AB 418, see FMI’s AB 418 issue paper.) 

Another legislative piece, AB 899, specifically addresses baby food. There are several implementation dates: on January 1, 2024, baby food manufacturers must conduct testing once a month for arsenic, cadmium, lead, and mercury; and on January 1, 2025, a baby food manufacturer must provide certain information disclosures to consumers, including making publicly available on its website the name and level of each toxic element present in each baby food product, for the duration of the product’s shelf life, plus one month. Note that “baby food” does not include infant formula. Currently, there is no sell-through provision. Read more about this legislation via FMI’s AB 899 issue paper. 

These kinds of bills coming out of California are nothing new. In 2020, Governor Newsom signed AB 2762 and SB 312, which bans 24 chemicals in cosmetics and requires companies to report the presence of these ingredients, respectively. Upon signing the bills, the governor stated, “Every day, Californians are exposed to hazardous chemicals hiding in their cosmetics and personal care products …  which are not actively regulated by the federal government. California is leading the nation by banning toxic ingredients from our cosmetics.” Read more about these two bills and the governor’s full statement here

To keep FMI members across the nation updated on these bills, FMI hosted a digital seminar with guest speakers from the California Grocers Association, who provided a deep dive into the legislation and potential regulatory action. See the slides from the seminar here

If California were a country, it’s economy would be sandwiched in between fourth-ranked India and fifth-ranked Japan, and therefore a huge contributor to the United States' first ranking. It’s clear that when California speaks, they expect others to listen and adhere to California policy.