California has become the first to ban brominated vegetable oil (BVO) and three other chemicals in food, Food Safety News reported.

Governor Gavin Newsom signed the California Food Safety Act, the first law in the US to ban four harmful chemicals – BVO along with potassium bromate, propylparaben and Red Dye No 3 – from confectionery, cereal, soda and other processed food sold and produced in the state, the 7 October report said.

All four additives - which have been linked to human health issues including hyperactivity, nervous system damage and an increased cancer risk - had already been banned by European regulators, with the exception of Red Dye No 3 in candied cherries, Food Safety News wrote.

“This bill will not ban any foods or products — it will require food companies to make minor modifications to their recipes and switch to safer alternative ingredients that they already use in Europe and in many other places around the globe,” Jesse Gabriel, chair of the state Assembly Committee on Privacy and Consumer Protection, was quoted as saying.

A vegetable oil that has bromine added to it, BVO is used in small amounts to keep the citrus flavouring from floating to the top in some soft drinks.

When used, BVO must be listed as an ingredient on the label, according to a report on the additive by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) website. BVO may be listed as “brominated vegetable oil” or as the specific oil that has been brominated, such as “brominated soyabean oil”.

As many soft drink makers had reformulated their products to replace BVO with an alternative ingredient, few drinks in the USA now contained the additive, the FDA’s 14 June report said.

Coca-Cola, for example, announced it had stopped using BVO in its drinks in 2014, The Guardian wrote at the time.

The California bill was backed by two national non-governmental organisations, the Environmental Working Group and Consumer Reports.