Mars has officially committed to removing titanium dioxide, a potentially poisonous form of nanoparticles it and other manufacturers use in candies, according to the Center for Food Safety.
The manufacturer announced in February that it would remove artificial colorings from its portfolio over the next five years. But it wasn't clear until CFS pressed the manufacturer on whether titanium dioxide was included in that list. Titanium dioxide is one of the most common chemicals manufacturers use to engineer nanomaterials.
CFS and public health advocates are concerned about nano-scale materials because they are tiny, yet highly reactive, and can pass through the human body's blood-brain barrier in ways many other chemicals in food cannot.
If manufacturers didn't have enough to worry about with consumers being increasingly concerned about sugar content of their products, now they may have to consider reformulating other ingredients, such as various nano-scale materials, that may seem insignificant but could harm consumers when eaten in large amounts — as Halloween candy often is.
Manufacturers use titanium dioxide as a whitener or as a pigment to make products look more appealing. Many disagree with the assessment that titanium dioxide is harmful to humans, especially because of how small the chemical compound is, and thereby how much consumers would need to eat to feel any effects.
But these nano-scale materials are in much more than just candy. Manufacturers use this whitening agent in a wide range of food products. Titanium dioxide also appears in products like cosmetics and paint. Many nano-scale materials have a GRAS rating from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, so without a straight-out commitment like this one from Mars, activists may have a challenging time getting rid of these materials from the food supply.