August 9, 2022
Titanium dioxide was found in Skittle

According to a complaint filed last week, Skittles are “unfit for human consumption” because they contain titanium dioxide, an artificial color additive.

Mars, the company that makes Skittles, told several media outlets that it couldn’t comment on pending litigation but that it “complies with FDA regulations” in its “use of titanium dioxide.”

A wide variety of food and consumer products, including candy, sunscreen, and house paint, contain titanium dioxide. titanium dioxide, when used as a color additive in food, is considered safe by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

In other words, some experts and food regulators in other countries disagree, pointing out the potential for serious health consequences and rising concerns about the additive. The use of titanium dioxide in food will be prohibited in the European Union starting on August 7.

You need to know the following about titanium dioxide:

Titanium dioxide – what is it? What is the purpose of its inclusion in food?

According to the American Chemistry Council, titanium dioxide (TiO2), also known as E171, is an inorganic, solid substance found in a wide range of consumer goods, including cosmetics, paint, plastic, and food.

titanium dioxide is a common color additive in food. It’s a “paint primer,” says Tasha Stoiber, a senior scientist at the consumer health nonprofit Environmental Working Group, who notes that titanium dioxide is often applied to hard-shelled candies such as Skittles before the color is added.

USA TODAY quotes Stoiber as saying that titanium dioxide “can also be found in dairy products to make them whiter and brighter… like frosting or cottage cheese.” The additive is used in other products—such as food or beverage instant mixes—as an anti-caking agent, as well.

When you consider how widely titanium dioxide is used in the food industry, it’s easy to be surprised.

As Senior Vice President of Government Affairs for Environmental Working Group Scott Faber explained, “It’s kind of ironic that the ingredient in paint that makes your kitchen shiny also makes your Hostess cupcakes shiny.” Maybe ironic is the wrong word.

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How dangerous is titanium dioxide? Has it been shown to have any negative effects on one’s health?

In contrast to the FDA, the European Food Safety Authority and other experts have raised concerns about titanium dioxide’s potential health risks.

According to a European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) safety assessment published in May 2021, genotoxicity is a concern. Genetic information such as DNA may be harmed by chemicals, which may lead to cancer.

According to Maged Younes, chair of the European Food Safety Authority’s expert panel on food additives and flavors, “titanium dioxide particles after oral ingestion are low absorption, but they can accumulate in the body.”

Toxicology experts were unable to determine how much titanium dioxide could be safely consumed.

According to panel chair Matthew Wright, “the evidence for general toxic effects was not conclusive,” but that the panel couldn’t rule out genotoxicity entirely. The assessment “could not establish a safe level for daily intake of the food additive,” he said, due to current data limitations.

Titanium dioxide is found in what other foods and candies?

Foods containing titanium dioxide aren’t limited to Skittles because federal regulations do not require all producers to list its use on ingredient labels, but that doesn’t mean that the list of foods containing the substance is over.

Label Insights senior manager Thea Bourianne told Food Navigator USA in May 2021 that 11,000 of the company’s food and beverage products listed titanium dioxide as an ingredient, according to the company’s database. Non-chocolate candy accounted for 32% of the total. There were 14 percent of cupcakes and snack cakes, eight percent of cookies, seven percent of coated pretzels and trail mix, six percent of baking decorations and four percent of ice cream.

According to Environmental Working Group, other candies with titanium dioxide in them include Nice! mints, Trolli sour gummies, and Ring Pops.

Lucerne cottage cheese, Beyond Meat’s chicken plant-based tenders, Great Value ice cream, and Chips all contain titanium dioxide. Ahoy! cookies.

When it comes to titanium dioxide, what is the FDA’s limit?

The FDA’s Code of Federal Regulations allows titanium dioxide to be used in food products, with some restrictions, as long as it is properly regulated.

There is no change in FDA’s policy regarding the safe use of titanium dioxide as a color additive in food if the amount of titanium dioxide used does not exceed 1% by weight of food, according to a statement to USA TODAY.

Following the removal of titanium dioxide from the FDA’s original “Generally Recognized as Safe” list in 1960, the agency first approved the use of titanium dioxide in food in 1966. This means that “titanium dioxide” doesn’t have to be listed on the packaging of every product it’s used in because it joined the list of color additives exempt from certification in 1977.

Titanium dioxide has many uses that we don’t know about because they were made exempt from being on the package in 1977,” said Faber, who added that “nothing much has changed” since—except for the FDA approving some other uses of the color additive, such as expanding the use of mica-based pearlescent pigments (prepared from titanium dioxide) as color additives in distilled spirits over the past few years.

As more and more people raise concerns about the possible health effects of titanium dioxide, Faber argues that federal regulations haven’t changed enough in the decades since the FDA approved its use.

That the FDA failed to reexamine its decisions from 56 years ago (in the 1966 approval) is exemplified by titanium dioxide, according to the FDA’s failure to reexamine previous decisions.

According to the FDA, “our scientists continue to review relevant new information to determine whether there are safety questions and whether the use of such substance is no longer safe under the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act” in all post-approval food additives.

Concerning the recent Skittles lawsuit, the FDA refused to comment, stating that it does not comment on pending legal actions.

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Where else does titanium dioxide fall under the purview of the criminal code?

It is legal in the United States and Canada to use a controlled amount of titanium dioxide in food products, but the practice is outright prohibited in many other countries, most notably in Europe. This substance “can no longer be considered safe as a food additive,” according to the European Food Safety Authority, which released its findings in May 2021.

It will be completely banned in the EU on August 7 after six months of phasing out titanium dioxide. Titanium dioxide will be banned in food in France as of January 2020, according to a previous ban.

What are the telltale signs that a product contains titanium dioxide? What can I do to stay away from it?

The nutritional information for some foods will list titanium dioxide as an ingredient. When you don’t list the ingredient, it can be difficult to tell.

In order to avoid titanium dioxide, consumers are urged to avoid processed foods as much as possible by Stoiber and Faber

As Faber points out, consumers can take action by calling their elected representatives and urging them to support increased food safety legislation and organization alliances such as Toxic Free Food FDA. “By reducing processed foods in your diet, you can reduce the likelihood of eating titanium dioxide and eating other chemicals of concern,” Faber said. “The United States is once again lagging behind other countries in terms of chemical safety.”

According to Stoiber, “we’re not just concerned about titanium dioxide; there are a whole host of other food additives that also have known harmful health risks associated with them.”

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