Dunkin’ Donuts is dropping titanium dioxide from its list of ingredients after an environmentalist group urged the chain’s parent company to reconsider the use of the potentially toxic coloring agent in certain recipes.
The parent company –
Dunkin’ Brands – said in a statement last week that it will no
longer rely on the whitening agent for the powdered sugar used on
popular selling donuts.
Titanium dioxide is often used to make products – such as
powdered sugar and toothpaste – appear whiter. Health advocates
say its use poses potential problems, however, and have blamed
the compound on medical issues including organ damage.
As a result of the decision, advocacy group As You Sow has
withdrawn a proposal filed earlier with the company, compelling
shareholders to reconsider its use of nanomaterials – including
titanium dioxide – Dunkin’ Brands said in a statement.
“This is a groundbreaking decision,” responded Danielle Fugere, president and
chief counsel of the group. “Dunkin’ has demonstrated strong
industry leadership by removing this potentially harmful
ingredient from its donuts.”
As You Sow had cautioned Dunkin’ that titanium dioxide is
not a “nanoparticle” as defined by the US Food and Drug
Administration (FDA), and that “insufficient safety
information exists regarding these manufactured particles,
especially for use in foods.” The group filed a request with
Dunkin’ in May 2014, asking for an investigation of its
nanomaterials usage by November 2015, and said the initiative had
been backed by 18.7 percent of the chain’s shareholders.
According to the group, preliminary studies have shown that
nanomaterials pose DNA and chromosomal damage, organ damage,
inflammation, brain damage and genital malformations, among other
“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,” said Fugere.
“The ingredient used in our powdered donuts does not meet the
definition of ‘nanomaterial’ as outlined under FDA
guidance,” a Dunkin’ Donuts spokesperson explained to
The Huffington Post.
“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
According to The Huffington Post, a representative for Dunkin’
added that the chain’s “powdered donuts will look the same
under the new formulation.”