Natural colors
A bright white color might be desired in donut icing.

Keeping tabs on titanium dioxide

Replacing the color’s bright, white intensity may be difficult

Titanium dioxide helps formulators achieve a bright white color in such applications as donut icings, but its seven syllables may not fit into consumer perceptions of clean label. In fact, Panera Bread Co., St. Louis, includes titanium dioxide on a “No No List” of ingredients that it does not use in its food.

The European Food Safety Authority in September 2016 said available data on titanium dioxide in food do not indicate health concerns for consumers, but new studies could fill data gaps on possible effects of the color on the reproductive system. The E.F.S.A. eventually may set an Acceptable Daily Intake (A.D.I.) for titanium dioxide.

Titanium dioxide, a pigment, provides a cloudy effect and white background color, according to the E.F.S.A. It is used in confectionery, baked foods and sauces. Most titanium dioxide passes through the body unchanged in the feces, but a small amount (maximum 0.1%) may be absorbed by the gut and distributed to various organs.

“Available toxicological data on titanium dioxide do not indicate adverse effects via oral ingestion,” the E.F.S.A. said. “While the A.N.S. panel (E.F.S.A.’s panel on additives and nutrient sources added to food) was unable to set an A.D.I. for titanium dioxide because of data limitations, using the margin of safety approach, they concluded that dietary exposure does not pose health concerns. The experts highlighted, however, the need for new research to fill data gaps on potential effects of titanium dioxide on the human reproductive system.”

Titanium dioxide may act as a whitener or brightener, depending on the application and initial background of the product, said Katie Rountree, application scientist for DDW, Louisville, Ky.

“Finding a cost-effective natural alternative to titanium dioxide with the same coloring intensity continues to be a challenge for the food industry,” she said. “Titanium dioxide reflects the light extremely well, creating a bright, vibrant white seen in icings and other foods. These reflective properties are hard to recreate, but many companies, including DDW, have been able to develop alternatives to titanium dioxide.”

She said DDW’s EmulsiTech cloud in liquid and powder form offers different options, depending on the processing method.

“As with any change in formulations, food manufacturers need to evaluate their products for taste, texture and shelf stability, among other factors,” Ms. Rountree said. “With titanium dioxide alternatives, developers need to understand that the bright white seen with titanium dioxide is difficult to achieve while using the same use rate, which may require some changes in processing in order to accommodate the shift.”