Turning the spotlight on titanium dioxide2 Sep 2019
Titanium dioxide has been the main white pigment used in the food industry for years, but consumer groups and regulators have raised questions about its acceptability. What options are available for manufacturers?
Although it is a naturally occurring mineral, titanium dioxide (E171) is classified as an artificial colour, and it is widely considered the most effective white food colorant on the market. However, its reputation has taken some major hits over the past few years. French authorities are poised to implement a ban from January 2020, and several consumer organisations support even wider bans.
Their main concern is that nanoscale particles of titanium dioxide could cross biological barriers in the body and accumulate in various tissues in dangerous quantities. Most recently, Foodwatch has petitioned bakery ingredient manufacturer Dr. Oetker to remove the colouring from its products – although it does not use nanoscale titanium dioxide – while other consumer organisations, including the European consumer organisation BEUC and the Health and Environment Alliance (HEAL), have called for an EU-wide ban.
So, why the concern?
The International Agency of Research on Cancer (IARC) has listed titanium dioxide as a possible human carcinogen, but says there is “inadequate evidence in humans for the carcinogenicity of titanium dioxide”. Its listing as a possible carcinogen is based on one study that showed a potential risk for industrial workers inhaling titanium dioxide particles and lung cancer. However, it has not examined its safety in food.
Elsewhere, two recent studies in mice have suggested very high doses of nanoscale titanium dioxide – either injected or orally administered – could be toxic, but the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) has found no evidence that the additive is carcinogenic in food, as has the US Food and Drug Administration. EFSA’s latest full safety assessment, released in 2016, concluded that it was not carcinogenic after oral administration. It then revised its opinion in 2018 following a request to take into account further research, and again reached the same conclusion.
French regulators say the upcoming ban is based on the precautionary principle rather than any particular danger linked to titanium dioxide in foods. Whatever the food industry may think of this approach, consumer concern about the additive seems to have gained momentum, and ingredient suppliers have started to come up with alternatives.
Calcium carbonate is another white colouring that has been around for years, although it does not provide the same opacity as titanium dioxide. Suppliers like IFC Solutions offer blends to make it more opaque for use in panned confectionery coatings, for example, while Sensient Food Colors has responded to manufacturer uncertainty about the additive with two titanium-free whitening and opacity ingredients. Beneo also provides a white colouring made from rice starch, which it says allows manufacturers to switch out E-numbers while providing a very white appearance. However, the ingredient needs to be used at a higher volume than titanium dioxide and is more expensive in formulations.
Meanwhile, data from market research organisation Mintel show that new product launches with titanium dioxide have started to decline, even in the sugar confectionery and gum markets, which historically have been the biggest users of the ingredient.
Wile Women embraces perimenopause ecosystem with support and education
6 Oct 2023
Wile Women, a US-based direct-to-consumer supplement brand, offers “naturopathic” products designed to address women’s mental health and aims to break the stigma surrounding perimenopause.Read more
Lahori Zeera’s spiced soft drinks ‘resonate with the Indian taste palette’
5 Oct 2023
Indian soda brand Lahori Zeera is on a mission to become the largest non-cola drinks brand in the country with its fruit-based soda drinks, available in flavours such as tamarind, lemon, and black pepper. “The ethnic beverages market in India is unders...Read more
Redistributing unwanted food to those in need: A cost- and hassle-free solution
4 Oct 2023
London-based charity City Harvest is solving the longstanding issues of food waste and hunger by providing food businesses with a convenient and cost-free solution to redistributing food waste.Read more
Advocacy groups condemn EU Commission for backpedalling on animal rights
3 Oct 2023
Amid rumours that the EU may abandon its plans to improve animal welfare in farming and end the use of cages, many stakeholders have condemned this possibility and urged the EU to reconsider.Read more
Smuckers, Hostess deal latest food industry mega merger
2 Oct 2023
The J.M. Smucker Co. is to acquire fellow American snack company Hostess Brands for approximately $5.6 billion, following several other high-profile mergers in food and snacks so far in 2023.Read more
Poland and Ukraine attempt to resolve grain dispute
29 Sep 2023
Poland and Ukraine have begun talks to try to resolve a dispute regarding the ban on Kyiv’s grain imports that prompted Kyiv to file a lawsuit to the World Trade Organization.Read more
HN-Novatech launches seaweed heme ingredient in Singapore
28 Sep 2023
Korean food technology company HN-Novatech secures $4 million in funding and has unveiled a proprietary seaweed heme ingredient for healthy plant-based alternatives in Singapore.Read more
The EU may be set to scrap its sustainability commitments
27 Sep 2023
A speech delivered by President Ursula von der Leyen last week inferred that the EU could be drawing back on its commitments to create a more sustainable and healthier food system.Read more
Nutri-Score will be implemented in the Netherlands in 2024
20 Sep 2023
Nutri-Score will be adopted as the official – but voluntary – food choice logo in the Netherlands from 1 January 2024, the Dutch government confirms. How will this impact the industry?Read more
Proudly made in China: Tips to tap into the guochao trend with success
19 Sep 2023
Thanks to the guochao trend, Chinese consumers see ‘Made in China’ products as trendy and Western brands are capitalising on this with regional flavours or Chinese-style branding. But guochao has become more nuanced and consumers are increasingly wise ...Read more