Dunkin’ Donuts announced its plans to stop using titanium dioxide, a nanomaterial used as a whitening agent, in its powdered sugar doughnuts. The company agreed to remove the ingredient after independent testing from the environmental nonprofit organization As You Sow showed Dunkin’ Donuts and Hostess Donettes contained nano-sized doses of the whitening agent.
Nanomaterials are extremely tiny particles (one nanometer is one billionth of a meter). As You Sow says nanomaterials may be problematic because little testing has been done on them and they could potentially contaminate the environment and cause human health issues.
“The ingredient used in our powdered doughnuts does not meet the definition of ‘nanoparticle’ as outlined under FDA guidance,” Dunkin’ Brands chief communications officer Karen Raskopf said to Market Watch. “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.”
“This is a groundbreaking decision. Dunkin’ has demonstrated strong industry leadership by removing this potentially harmful ingredient from its donuts,” Danielle Fugere, President and Chief Counsel of As You Sow said in a statement. “Engineered nanomaterials are beginning to enter the food supply, despite not being proven safe for consumption. Dunkin’ has made a decision to protect its customers and its bottom line by avoiding use of an unproven and potentially harmful ingredient.”
“The pressure is on Dunkin’s competitors to follow suit,” commented Austin Wilson, Environmental Health Program Manager at As You Sow. “Peer-reviewed research on titanium dioxide nanoparticles has found that they may damage human cells and DNA. Investors expect companies to take a precautionary approach to health and safety.”
FDA contends more research needs to be done on nanoparticles in food. According to FDA, “the particle size of a food substance may affect its ability to be absorbed by the body or to migrate from food packaging into food. In such circumstances, safety studies conducted with a food substance manufactured as relatively large particles may have little relevance to the safety of that food substance when manufactured in a substantially smaller particle size.”
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Image of Dunkin’ Donuts via Settawat Udom / Shutterstock.com