Sweets may contain titanium dioxide a little longer
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Sweets may contain titanium dioxide a little while longer

Titanium dioxide has been banned as a colorant in food. However, it may still take some time before it is completely off the shelves. See if your favorite candy contains the substance.

Stine Müller · Foto: Getty Images · 8. februar 2022
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The colorant titanium dioxide is considered not to be safe as an additive in food, because it cannot be ruled out that the substance damages our DNA and thus can be carcinogenic.

Therefore, from February 2022, it is no longer on the list of permitted additives to be used in foods and supplements.

However, you can still find the substance in sweets and food on the shelves in Danish supermarkets, if the products were produced before the ban came into force or in a subsequent 6-month transition period.

If a product is produced before the ban, it is allowed on the market  until its expiration date. Therefore it will take a while before all sweets are free of the substance in Denmark.

Half of the candy contains the unwanted colorant

We have checked 35 different kinds of coated sweets for titanium dioxide (E171).

17 out of 35 candy bags in the test contain the substance. These products get the lowest chemical rating, the C-rating, in the test.

The remaining 18 bags of candy in the test get the highest chemical rating, the A-rating, because they do not contain the colorant.

The substance is used in candy, dressings, chewing gum and care products

Titanium dioxide has often been used as a colorant in coated candy. Therefore, we have focused especially on this type of candy.

However, coated candy is not the only type of product in which the substance can be found. It may be used in other types of foods as well.

We have previously found titanium dioxide in dressings, chewing gum, cake decorations and cake sprinkels. It can also be used in supplements like vitamin pills.

In addition, it is used in toothpaste and lip balms, which you also risk eating a part of when using. In cosmetics and care products, however, it is still allowed.


Manufacturers are phasing out

Many manufacturers report that they have been phasing out the colorant since they became aware of the problems. Several manufacturers have already stopped using titanium dioxide while others claim that they expect to be ready soon with new products which do not contain titanium dioxide. Most brands have both products with and without the unwanted colorant.

However, products like candy and cake sprinkles have long shelf lifes, and therefore these types of products containing titanium dioxide may be on the market for some time yet. Even if the substance is no longer used in production.

Therefore, you should continue checking the ingredient list for titanium dioxide or E171 content if you want to bypass the colorant.


Good advice: Check the ingredient list

In the test, we see that the same candy brand can have two different versions of their candy - one bag is without titanium dioxide and the other contains the colorant.

This means that you should look for the colorant on the ingredient list on the individual bag of candy and not just go for a specific brand such as Toms, Salling or Coop.

About the test

  • The Danish Consumer Council Think Chemicals has purchased candy bags from a number of Danish stores.

    In the selection, we have focused on coated sweets or mixtures, as titanium dioxide has been frequently used as a colorant in this type of candy.

    After purchasing, the test team checked the candy´s declaration for titanium dioxide (E171).

    The test is a declaration test. This means that we have checked the ingredient lists for the content of the substance, but we have not analysed the products for the quantities of the substance.

    The test was performed with the help of our two interns Marius and Nikolaj.

  • A total of 35 bags of candy containing coated candy have been checked for titanium dioxide.

    Just under half contained titanium dioxide, while the other half did not.

    • 17 contained titanium dioxide in the list of ingredients and therefore gets a C-rating
    • 18 did not contain titanium dioxide and therefore has an A-rating.
  • Titanium dioxide has been used as an additive in foods for years.

    However, in the spring of 2021, the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) assessed titanium dioxide as unsafe for use in food.

    EFSA cannot rule out that the substance may damage human DNA, and thus that it may be carcinogenic.

    Therefore, in February 2022, the EU removed the substance from the list of permitted additives in foods, which also includes candy and dietary supplements.

    For a transitional period until August 2022, however, marketing of products containing titanium dioxide is allowed. After August 2022, they are still allowed on the market until their expiration date.

    Despite the new ban, consumers will therefore be able to find food and candy on the shelves containing titanium dioxide.