Rudy Wouters, vice president of Beneo’s Technology Center told ConfectioneryNews that artificial color titanium dioxide had been flagged as a possible cancer risk and moving to a natural alternative would meet strong consumer demand for clean label products.
“In confectionery there are ingredients coming under pressure and titanium dioxide is one of them,” he said.
Titanium dioxide: exposure, risk, perception
Titanium dioxide is used as a whitener in many confectionery products such as chewing gum and sugar coated candies but is most commonly used in sunscreens. The additive has been classified by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) as, ''possibly carcinogenic to humans'', although this was in relation to respiratory exposure among workers manufacturing the chemical.
In the food supply, no conclusive link has been established between titanium dioxide and health risks, though one study has suggested a link to Crohn’s disease.
EFSA told ConfectioneryNews in 2012: “We are not aware of any scientific data supporting possible carcinogenic effects of oral exposure to titanium dioxide. In its 2004 Opinion, the former EFSA AFC Panel reported a 2-year oral carcinogenicity study in mice and rats which was considered negative. Another study in which rats were administered titanium dioxide coated mica in the diet for 130 weeks was also negative.”
“Titanium dioxide is still a big additive and I don’t think it’s a health concern – it’s an image thing like aspartame,” said Wouters.
Cleaner image, cleaner label
That image problem is enough to provoke Beneo to suggest replacing titanium dioxide with natural alternative rice starch to give products a cleaner label.
“You see more and more clean label. Customers want to replace modified starches with natural starches,” said Wouters.
Natural or additive/preservative-free claims are the most popular claim for confectionery product launches in the US and Europe, accounting for around 15% of all launches in 2012, according to Innova Market Insights.
Replacing titanium dioxide, labelled E171, with rice starch, labelled starch, allows confectioners to limit e-number declarations on product packaging.
Wouters said that confectioners could make a natural claim with rice starch provided other ingredients were from natural sources, as rice starch was derived without changes to the properties and without chemicals.
“It gives you a very white appearance,” said Wouters. “The particle size is also unique.”
According to Beneo, rice starch granules are finer than most other starches enabling a smoother, more even coating for products.
However, Wouters conceded there were cost differences.
“Rich starch is not a very expensive ingredient, but you need a higher dosage to replace titanium dioxide.”
While the required amount of titanium dioxide ranges between 0.5-1% of any product volume, the necessary amount for rice starch is approximately 5%.
Wouters said that consumers were willing to pay more for natural confectionery products, which would outweigh any potential price differences.
Big players considering rice starch, says Beneo
Rice starch has been used as a white colorant for around four years in the food industry. It has a neutral taste profile and Beneo claims it is easy to process.
“It’s not the small brands that are interested, it’s the serious players that are looking into it,” said Wouters.
Beneo recommends rice starch variety Remy B7. “The B7 has the highest starting gel point, which gives a better color,” said Wouters.