AB418’s Food Fight is Nothing New for Schwarzenegger

When Governor Schwarzenegger fought to create healthier environments at public schools in California, he was shocked at the obstacles that popped up in his way. 

“You wouldn’t believe the crap lobbyists said to me when I limited junk food in schools or banned trans fats as Governor. They can never believe when someone stands up to them,” he recently wrote in The Pump newsletter.

While he rarely jumps into debates in Sacramento these days, Schwarzenegger identified with the battle a particular bill is facing in the CA Senate.

Jesse Gabriel’s Assembly Bill 418, which seeks to ban five ultra-processed food additives in California: Brominated vegetable oil, Potassium bromate, Propylparaben, Red dye 3, and Titanium dioxide, has the Governor’s support. As someone who relentlessly emphasizes making healthy choices and treating your body with care, he wants to see less ultra-processed options on the shelves of CA grocery stores.

“First of all, none of that really sounds like food to me,” said Schwarzenegger, referencing the five food additives that AB 418 seeks to remove. 

“Second of all, when we researched these, we found that all of them are banned in Europe, where the Big Food lobby has less power. Third, one of those is banned in the United States already, just not for food -- it’s illegal to use Red dye 3 in makeup. So you can’t put it on your face, but you can put it in your mouth. Does that make sense to anyone?”

Schwarzenegger also chastised the effects of misleading headlines about banning Skittles, which he says are meant to create anger and profit from dividing people. 

“And as far as the headlines go, candy won’t be banned. Food manufacturers will just have to find a way to make candy with ingredients you might be able to pronounce,” he wrote.

Schwarzenegger urges Senators to look past the headlines and to see that AB 418 focuses on making healthy choices available for Californians, especially parents. It doesn’t require food companies or grocery stores to do anything but follow the leader, as big brands like Dunkin’ Donuts, Papa John’s, Publix, ShopRite, and Chipotle have already banned all or some of these chemicals.

“I’ve been through these fights when I was Governor. 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.”

As a Republican Governor, Schwarzenegger passed multiple bills regarding food safety and healthy options, including many that Democrats supported. His beliefs on healthy options haven't wavered since leaving office. 

“Things like this aren’t partisan,” he emphasized. “They’re common sense.”

Arnold’s “Food Fight” History

Wondering why a Republican governor who champions small government is lending his voice to a bill like AB 418? Governor Schwarzenegger prioritized legislation that led Californians towards healthier choices during his time in office. Healthy people, particularly kids, will always be an important cause to him.

Ever since his days traveling the country as Chairman of the President’s Council on Physical Fitness and Sports, Arnold has seen the value in attacking a problem with a team. In September 2005, he welcomed leaders and experts from the business, education, and public-health communities to Sacramento for a summit on health, nutrition, and obesity.

Following the inaugural summit, Governor Schwarzenegger signed SB 12. This bill, written by Martha Escutia, established nutrition standards for food served and sold in K–12 public schools. He also signed SB 281, which dedicated a significant portion of the Governor’s budget to making healthier school meal programs. As SB 281 instituted more fruits and vegetables on campus, SB 965 extended a ban on the sale of soda from middle schools to public high schools as well. 

The following year, Governor Schwarzenegger signed AB 1535. This bill continued the school instructional gardens program through grants and staff support. The instructional gardens program develops and maintains gardens at California public schools. Students learn about agriculture, where their food comes from and low-income communities have more access to fruits and vegetables. 

He also signed AB 2384, developing a “Healthy Food Purchase” pilot program through the Department of Health Services. The new program provided incentives for low-income communities to buy more fresh fruits and vegetables.

In 2008, Governor Schwarzenegger set his sights on taking out trans fats. AB 97 was dedicated to eliminating trans fats in all California restaurants beginning in 2010 and from all baked goods by 2011.

"Consuming trans fat is linked to coronary heart disease, and today we are taking a strong step toward creating a healthier future for California," the Governor said.

When Governor Schwarzenegger signed SB 1420, California became the first state to require a new level of transparency from restaurant chains. Chains with twenty or more locations in California were required to post calorie information on menus and indoor menu boards.

Also in 2008, he signed SB 1413. In tandem with legislation that removed the sale of soda from schools, this bill provided students with access to fresh, free drinking water on campus. 

"With this legislation, we are turning our goals into action that will help create a healthy foundation for California’s future," the Governor said.

Though he no longer spends his days under the capitol rotunda, Governor Schwarzenegger remains committed to making healthy choices available to Californians. He’s proud to support AB 418 and believes that it is a step forward towards a future free of harmful additives and preservatives in America.