Skittles was sued for containing titanium dioxide. Many other products have it too.

In a trial filed last weeka consumer alleged that the Skittles were “unfit for human consumption” because the rainbow candy contained a “known toxin” – an artificial coloring called titanium dioxide.

Mars, the creator of Skittles, told several media that the company could not comment on pending litigation, but that its “use of titanium dioxide is in compliance with FDA regulations.”

Titanium dioxide is used in a wide range of food and consumer goods – from candy to sunscreen and household paint. The United States Food and Drug Administration maintains that the regulated use of titanium dioxide, particularly as a color additive in foods, is safe under certain restrictions.

However, some food experts and regulators in other countries disagree, pointing to serious potential health consequences and growing concerns about the additive. From August 7, for example, the use of titanium dioxide in food will be banned in the European Union.

Here’s what you need to know about titanium dioxide.

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What is titanium dioxide? Why is it used in food products?

Titanium dioxide (TiO2), sometimes referred to as E171, is a solid inorganic substance used in a wide range of consumer goods including cosmetics, paint, plastics and foods, american chemistry board.

In foods, titanium dioxide is often used as an artificial color additive. Tasha Stoiber, senior scientist at the nonprofit Consumer Health Association Environmental Working Groupsays titanium dioxide can generally be considered a “paint primer” – it often goes on a hard-shelled candy like Skittles before color is added to give it an “even shine”.

Titanium dioxide “can also be found in dairy products to make them whiter and brighter…like icing or cottage cheese,” Stoiber told USA TODAY, adding that the additive is used in other products. – such as instant food or drink mixes – as an anti-caking agent.

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Titanium dioxide is used in a huge range of food products, which might seem shocking when you look at some of its other uses.

“It’s kind of ironic, maybe ironic isn’t the right word, that the ingredient in paint that makes your kitchen shiny also makes your Hostess brilliant cupcakes,” EWG Senior Vice President of Government Affairs Scott Faber added.

Is titanium dioxide dangerous? Has it been linked to any health issues?

While the FDA maintains that the regulated use of titanium dioxide is safe, the European Food Safety Authority and other experts warn of potential and serious health risks.

Most notably, EFSA’s May 2021 safety assessment highlighted genotoxicity concerns, as suggested by Previous search. Genotoxicity is the ability of chemicals to damage genetic information such as DNA, which can lead to cancer.

“After oral ingestion, absorption of titanium dioxide particles is low, but they can accumulate in the body,” said Maged Younes, chair of EFSA’s expert panel on food additives and flavorings. , in a May 2021 press release.

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EFSA has not identified a safe amount of titanium dioxide that can be consumed.

Matthew Wright, chair of EFSA’s working group on titanium dioxide, noted that “the evidence for general toxic effects was inconclusive”, but the group could not rule out genotoxicity entirely. There were also some limitations of the current data and the assessment “could not establish a safe level for daily intake of the food additive,” he said.

What other sweets and foods contain titanium dioxide?

It is difficult to determine the total amount of food products containing titanium dioxide, as federal regulations do not require all producers to list its use on ingredient labels, but the list of foods containing the substance is certainly never ending. not by Skittles.

Among the products that include the additive in their labels, Thea Bourianne, senior manager at data consultant Label Insights, told Food Navigator USA as of May 2021, more than 11,000 products in the company’s U.S. Food and Beverage Database listed titanium dioxide as an ingredient. Non-chocolate candies topped those numbers at 32%. Cupcakes and cupcakes were 14%, followed by cookies at 8%, coated pretzels and trail mixes at 7%, baking decorations at 6%, gummies and mints at 4%, and ice cream at 2%.

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In addition to Skittlesother candies containing titanium dioxide include Pleasant! mints, Trolli sour gums and Ring Pops, according to EEC.

Other food products that mention titanium dioxide are Alfalfa Cottage cheese, Beyond meat plant-based chicken fillets, Great value ice cream and Crisps Ahoy! cookies.

What is the FDA limit for titanium dioxide?

The FDA Code of Federal Regulations authorizes the legal and regulated use of titanium dioxide in food products, subject to certain restrictions.

“The FDA continues to permit the safe use of titanium dioxide as a color additive in foods generally under specifications and conditions, including that the amount of titanium dioxide not exceed 1% by weight of the food “, the FDA said in a statement to USA TODAY.

The FDA first approved the use of titanium dioxide in food in 1966following his 1960 deletion (as well as the removal of other color additives) from the agency original “Generally Recognized as Safe” listing. In 1977titanium dioxide joins the list of color additives which are exempt from certification, meaning “titanium dioxide” does not have to be listed on the packaging of every product it is used in, Faber noted.

“There are many uses for titanium dioxide that we don’t know about because they were exempted from being on the packaging in 1977,” said Faber, who added that “not much has changed” since then – apart from the FDA approving other uses of the color additive, such as extend the use of mica-based pearlescent pigments (prepared from titanium dioxide) as color additives in distilled spirits in recent years.

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Faber argued that there have not been enough changes to these federal regulations in the decades since the FDA approved titanium dioxide, especially as others increasingly point out plus the potential health consequences.

“What titanium dioxide is truly emblematic of…is the failure of the FDA to reverse those old decisions and question whether its decisions that were made in this case…56 years ago (in the 1966 endorsement) still stand,” he said.

In its statement to USA TODAY, the FDA maintained that, in all subsequent food additive approvals, “our scientists continue to review relevant new information to determine if there are any safety issues and whether the use of such a substance is no longer safe under the Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act.”

Asked about the recent Skittles lawsuit, the FDA said the agency does not comment on ongoing litigation.

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Is titanium dioxide illegal in other countries?

Although the regulated use of titanium dioxide in food products is legal in the United States and Canada, it is banned in some other countries, including throughout Europe. In May 2021, the European Food Safety Authority announcement that titanium dioxide “can no longer be considered safe as a food additive”.

After six months of phasing out the additive, titanium dioxide will be completely banned in the European Union from August 7. France had previously banned the use of titanium dioxide in foods from January 2020.

How do you know if a product contains titanium dioxide? How can I avoid the ingredient?

Some food products will include titanium dioxide on their nutrition label. But again, that can be hard to tell for those who don’t list the ingredient.

If you want to avoid titanium dioxide, Stoiber and Faber urge consumers to avoid processed foods as much as possible.

“By reducing processed foods in your diet, you can reduce the likelihood of not only eating titanium dioxide, but also other chemicals of concern,” Faber said, noting that consumers can also call their elected representatives for advice. urge to support increased food security. legislation and taking action with alliances of organizations like FDA toxic free food.

“We’re not just concerned about titanium dioxide, there are a whole host of other food additives that also have known adverse health risks,” Stoiber added.

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This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: What foods contain titanium dioxide? What to know after the Skittles trial