Titanium dioxide is a chemical ingredient that can be used to make food items white and shiny in color, such as icing, gum, and coffee creamer, according to 2021 research published in the International Journal of Molecular Sciences. It is also used in the creation of toothpaste, medications, paint, and makeup products, among other items. The ingredient has been linked to potential health issues from long-term respiratory exposure, as seen in longitudinal rat studies where the animals subsequently developed lung tumors after inhaling high levels of titanium dioxide.
As a food additive, however, titanium dioxide has been deemed safe in small amounts by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Use of the chemical is greatly restricted, with no more than 1% titanium dioxide allowed in food items, reports WebMD. However, the additive has been banned in other countries due to concerns regarding its potential carcinogenic properties. In fact, consumers have sued the makers of Skittles for their use of titanium dioxide. In response, the company has stated that their manufacturing of the candy fully adheres to all FDA regulations (via NPR). Although the company has issued prior statements voicing plans to gradually eliminate the use of titanium dioxide in Skittles, they have yet to do so (per Health News).