Titanium Dioxide On Your Donut… MMMM Good?

kids-donutsDid you know your child’s favourite donut might be covered with Titanium Dioxide? Ok… Perhaps “covered” is a wee bit alarmist but TiO2 HAS been found in the sugar covering donuts.

I wasn’t aware of this until 4 days ago.

The same stuff used in paints, vinyl compounds, enamels, plastics, specialty papers, inks, and other household items is now present in our foods, all for the purpose of… Get this! To improve the color of the food item and make it look more appetizing. It leaves me fumbling with a couple of questions.

  • How did we get to the point in our society, where food producers need to put something with the molecular formula TiO2, in our food just to make it look palatable?
  • How twisted has our food chain become, that food producers seem to be able to use a mineral compound not found in any natural food item and not have to tell us?

After a little digging, I discovered that TiO2 is apparently used in more than just Donuts, things like Skim milk, breakfast cereals, fruit, sorbet, cheese…. The list is long, disconcerting and I hadn’t a clue. I am once again gobsmacked at the lack of transparency our industrial Food Producers operate under. It only leaves me to imagine the discussion around the board room table when coming to the decision to use TiO2 in a food product.

“Ah what the hell, lets toss this stuff in, sell a few million units and see what happens. What’s the worst that can happen? A few dozen people drop dead from it and by the time they figure out why, our legal team will fabricate an elaborate defence that can fend off any class action suit. Were all good! Giddy up!”

What I also discovered in my little 4 day investigation, is that Titanium Dioxide is actually FDA approved for both food and cosmetics and has been used for years in products such as sunscreen.

Titanium Dioxide is used to impart a whiteness to color cosmetics and personal care products that are applied to the skin (including the eye area), nails, lips, and it helps to increase the opacity, and reduce the transparency of a product formula. Titanium Dioxide also absorbs, reflects, or scatters light (including ultraviolet radiation in light)


I actually knew that TiO2 was approved for sunscreen and have been merrily slapping the stuff on for years. What I wasn’t aware of is that I have been dining on the odd Titanium Tainted Tidbit for probably as long.

The kicker in all this however, is that the kind of TiO2 being found in our food and cosmetics as of late, comes in the form of a NanoParticle. Although TiO2 has been approved for human use, the NanoParticle version of TiO2HASN’T been fully tested and HASN’T “really” been approved by the FDA. Yet Nano Particles of TiO2 are showing up in our cosmetics and foods.

If you dig around for a bit, it doesn’t take long to discover that Nano Particles of TiO2 are not something you would find coming out of grandma’s kitchen.

The use of titanium dioxide (TiO2) in various industrial applications (eg, production of paper, plastics, cosmetics, and paints) has been expanding thereby increasing the occupational and other environmental exposure of these nanoparticles to humans and other species. However, the health effects of exposure to TiO2 nanoparticles have not been systematically assessed


What studies by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) have found about TiO2, is that in industrial applications, it qualifies as a Class B Carcinogen. These results have promted Health Canada to place it on its WHMIS list of carcinogens commonly found in the workplace.

Representatives from Health Canada (National Office of WHMIS) recently consulted with the Quebec CSST and CCOHS (the two main agencies providing WHMIS classifications to the public) regarding the implications of the IARC decision to the WHMIS classification of titanium dioxide. It was agreed that titanium dioxide does now meet the criteria for WHMIS D2A (carcinogen) based on the information released by IARC to date, and that it is not necessary to wait for release of the full monograph.


Did you see that!? “it is not necessary to wait for release of the full monograph…”

If Health Canada’s Workplace Hazardous Materials Information System is classifying TiO2, as a hazerdous workplace material, without full test results having been released… and this was in 2006! I am thinking it probably shouldn’t be in the food we are eating in 2013!

The obvious question here is, why are we allowing a substance that is considered to be a Class B carcinogen, to be present in our food supply? It baffles the mind!

Do you happen to remember when Red Dye #2 was banned due to Russin cancer study in 1971? Neither do I actually, but it was. Red M&M’s weren’t produced for a decade because of concerns about red food dye. Shockingly, all these years later, food companies have either failed to learn anything from Red Dye #2 or they just don’t care about their customers.

What is even more distressing is that there doesn’t seem to be any rules that say, food companies MUST declare their use of NanoParticles in their products. What this means is that in order to hold food producers accountable, consumers have to go looking for those particles themselves.

Fortunately there are organizations like As You Sow. They are currently on the hunt for NanoParticles of TiO2 in PopTarts – Trident Gum and… M&M’s! Yes M&M’s… You would think the makers of M&M’s would have figured this all out with the other food colouring incident 40 years ago but I guess not.


Further Information

Layout 1If you would like more information on the use of Titanium Dioxide in Food, check out As You Sow or Slipping Through the Cracks: An Issue Brief on Nanomaterials in Foods





The video below also gives you a great overview of what As You Sow has discovered, along with further plans to investigate the presence of Titanium Dioxide in other common foods many of us ingest daily.



[1] Titanium Dioxide Information:  http://www.cosmeticsinfo.org/HBI/21

[2] Exposure to titanium dioxide and other metallic oxide nanoparticles induces cytotoxicity on human neural cells and fibroblasts James C K Lai, Maria B Lai, Sirisha Jandhyam, Vikas V Dukhande, Alok Bhushan, Christopher K Daniels, Solomon W Leung,          Int J Nanomedicine. 2008 December; 3(4): 533–545.  PMCID: PMC2636591

[3] Canadian Centre for Occupational Health & Safety: Titanium Dioxide Classified as Possibly Carcinogenic to Humans


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