Dunkin' Brands plans to stop using titanium dioxide

by Jeff Gelski
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Say "so long" to titanium dioxide in the powdered donuts at Dunkin'.

CANTON, MASS. — Dunkin’ Brands, Inc. said it is working to remove titanium dioxide from its powdered donuts. In response, As You Sow, a shareholder group based in Oakland, Calif., said it had withdrawn a shareholder proposal asking Dunkin’ Brands to assess and reduce the risks of using nanomaterials in its food products.

Dunkin’ Brands and As You Sow still disagree on whether titanium dioxide is a nanomaterial.

“The ingredient used in our powdered donuts does not meet the definition of ‘nanomaterial’ as outlined under F.D.A. guidance,” said Karen Raskopf, chief communications officer for Canton-based Dunkin’ Brands. “Nevertheless, we began testing alternative formulations for this product in 2014, and we are in the process of rolling out a solution to the system that does not contain titanium dioxide.”

Titanium dioxide, a whitening agent, is commonly a source of nanomaterials, according to As You Sow. Independent laboratory tests commissioned by As You Sow found Dunkin’ white powdered donuts contained titanium dioxide nanomaterials. As You Sow said that the small size of nanomaterials may result in greater toxicity for human health and the environment and that insufficient safety information exists regarding the manufactured particles, especially for use in food.

“Dunkin’ has demonstrated strong industry leadership by removing this potentially harmful ingredient from its donuts,” said Danielle Fugere, president and chief counsel of As You Sow. “Engineered nanomaterials are beginning to enter the food supply, despite not being proven safe for consumption. Dunkin’ has made a decision to protect its consumers and its bottom line by avoiding use of an unproven and potentially harmful ingredient.”

The Food and Drug Administration addresses titanium dioxide’s use in food in the Code of Federal Regulations at http://www.accessdata.fda.gov/scripts/cdrh/cfdocs/cfcfr/cfrsearch.cfm?fr=73.575. The color additive titanium dioxide is synthetically prepared TiO2, free from mixture with other substances, according to the Code of Federal Regulations. The lead in titanium dioxide should not be more than 10 parts per million (p.p.m.) while the arsenic should not be more than 1 p.p.m., the antimony should not be more than 2 p.p.m. and the mercury should not be more than 1 p.p.m. When used as a color additive, titanium dioxide should not exceed 1% by weight of the food, according to the Code of Federal Regulations.
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