Dioxide no more: Dunkin’ Donuts to stop using harmful nanoparticles in products

News & Lifestyle Editor, Abbi Webb 

Dunkin’ Donuts has decided to take out an ingredient in its powdered donut recipe after being pressured by an environmental advocacy group.

Through independent lab testing, a whitening agent known as titanium dioxide was found in the company’s powdered sugar donuts and may be harmful to the human body, according to a California activist group, As You Sow.

The group pushed a shareholder request to Dunkin’ Brands, the parent company of Dunkin’ Donuts, to minimize the use of titanium dioxide, which they have called a “nanomaterial” toxic to the human body.

Dunkin’ Brands investigated the internal matter and found that the titanium dioxide was not a “nanoparticle,” according to broad FDA standards, but they still agreed to stop using it.

 Dunkin' Donuts is working on implementing a new formula for their powdered donuts that does not include titanium dioxide.  Photo by: Arina P. Habich  /Shutterstock).

Dunkin' Donuts is working on implementing a new formula for their powdered donuts that does not include titanium dioxide. Photo by: Arina P. Habich/Shutterstock).

In a public statement to USA Today, Dunkin’ Brands’ chief communications officer, Karen Raskopf, said the company was working on a new and improved formula for its donuts that did not include titanium dioxide.

As You Sow withdrew the shareholder request after Dunkin’ Brands made its statement.

As You Sow is a non-profit group that aims to strengthen accountability between big corporations.  The group thinks that many companies have no idea that nanomaterials exist in their products.

Ed Culbertson, the Department Chair of Chemistry at North Greenville University, said that it is important to look at both sides on this matter. He said that titanium dioxide is a very stable compound that is used in a number of things from cosmetics to pharmaceuticals and has been used for a long time.

“Ingestion [of titanium dioxide] is not an issue. If so, we’d seen it 50 years ago,” said Culbertson. “The problem is inhalation. When you inhale something of nanometer size into the lungs, there is a concern that it can’t come out, much like dust or pollen, then it can be transferred into cells.”

Culbertson said that Dunkin’ Donuts has probably always used titanium dioxide as a flow agent to prevent their powder sugar from becoming sticky and to make it appear whiter.

Culbertson said individuals should research for themselves the truth about the effects of titanium dioxide on the human body rather than taking what an advocacy group has picked out as truth.