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Dangerous Ingredients

Dangerous Ingredients

Talk about getting down to the nitty-gritty. As You Sow, a nonprofit organization promoting corporate responsibility and environmental health, recently surveyed 2,500 food companies about their use of nanomaterials in food products.

The report includes “laboratory results showing titanium dioxide (TiO2) nanoparticles in the white powdered sugar that coats Dunkin’ Donuts Powdered Cake Donuts and Hostess Donettes,” read a press release on the findings.

See? This is why I always order the chocolate glazed.

More to the point, it seems as if drilling down to the ingredient level has become a real trend with consumers and their advocates.

Just the other week, PepsiCo bowed to public pressure after an online petition requesting it remove “flame retardant” from its Gatorade brand went viral. The substance in question, brominated vegetable oil, was found only in the citrus-flavored beverages and was scheduled to be phased out anyway, according to the company.

The Food and Drug Administration allows BVO to be used in small amounts as an emulsifier. As for the TiO2, the FDA has classified edible forms of TiO2 as safe with no adverse effects.

The fact that these ingredients have been used in products for years, and that federal regulators consider them safe, has become irrelevant. These are not the assurances that consumers want anymore. Instead, they’re asking questions:Why the heck are these things in my food in the first place? Isn’t there something more natural you could use?

These are questions that will become more important as the demand for transparency in business, and for natural/organic foods in general, grow. According to information provider SPINS, more than 70% of households purchased organic food and beverages last year, while products certified free of GMOs lept 18% in 2012. The performance of uncertified conventional food products pales in comparison.

These categories are growing because of simple demand, and it’s interesting to note that categories or causes that have certification, or verifiable standards, or regulations — in short, have some sort of transparent structure — are the ones that receive consumer support.

As You Sow is now looking for crowdsouring funding so that it can test products from additional companies, including M&M’s, Pop-Tarts, and Trident gum for the presence of nanomaterials. The hunt for malevolent ingredients is going to continue, and companies would be wise to do what PepsiCo did and make plans to begin finding natural substitutes wherever possible. 

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