Alternatives to titanium dioxide: New opportunities and options

With the EU ban on titanium dioxide expected to come into force in 2022, which alternatives are worth considering? Rice is a good place to start.

Rising to the challenge

Although titanium dioxide has been a widely used whitening agent in the food industry, its future is fading. The European Union (EU) announced it as a subject of scrutiny in 2016, and in May 2021 the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) stripped its status as a food additive. A full ban is possible in 2022.

How will this impact practices in North America? The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) reports it is studying the EFSA findings, but currently the chemical is approved as a color additive. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has not yet taken a stand.

Already, a handful of U.S. food chains are outpacing regulators, announcing they will no longer sell products that contain titanium dioxide. Yet formulating without the unique properties of this coloring agent is a complex technical challenge — a reason it is still used in more than 11,000 U.S. food and beverage products such as sugar-free gum, candy, cupcakes, cookies and ice cream.

Opportunities and options

One of the most important characteristics of titanium dioxide is its heat-stable opacity and bright white color — properties which are particularly appealing when it comes to maximizing a product’s visual appeal. From chocolate to vegan cheese, baked goods to pastry fillings, titanium dioxide has lent itself to an impressively wide range of applications.

For companies tasked with finding alternatives, there is no one-size-fits-all replacement. Different options must be explored for every product. But that list is growing.

Rice to the rescue

For example, one approach that is proven to be highly effective in certain applications is the use of rice starches and rice flours.  Not only do carbohydrate-based ingredients successfully replicate the opacity of titanium dioxide, but consumer acceptance is also high considering people have cooked with rice for years.

Costs can be a concern, as reformulating with alternatives such as rice costs more as it takes a higher dosage and adjusted production processes to replicate the full effect of titanium dioxide. But that shouldn’t necessarily create a barrier.

Consumers are there

Ingredion research shows that consumers are willing to pay more for a clean label product. At least 70% don’t want to see titanium dioxide listed on a label at all.1 So even if your products are not impacted by the EU restrictions, a reformulation strategy is well worth exploring, and Ingredion is ready to guide you to solutions that work best in your application.

For example, our rice starch and rice flour portfolio delivers positive results in a range of applications, including sauces, chewing gum, coated confectionery and low-fat dairy. And with additional system solutions, we're developing alternatives to formulating with titanium dioxide in more applications than ever before.

Ingredion alternatives to formulating with titanium dioxide

Ingredient solution/application Advantages Considerations

Rice starch for pan coating and confectionery

Clean label, easy to handle

Cannot be heated under high moisture

Rice flour for soups, sauces, gravies and cook-up applications

Clean label, provides opacity, processing and shelf life stability, creamy/thick texture

Not at 1:1 replacement, reformulation necessary

Native functional starch for cook-up applications, including dairy, savory, dairy alternatives

Clean label, white product maintains desired brightness, opacity and whiteness 

Not at 1:1 replacement, reformulation necessary

Rice flour for dry mixes, high-moisture foods with short shelf life

Bland flavor, generates opacity

Not at 1:1 replacement, lower process/cold temp stability

Food system solution for coating and confectionery

Offers comparable results to gum acacia, with a whiter shell color

Uses modified ingredients, not as label-friendly

Ready to start on your reformulation plan?

To gain a more in-depth perspective on titanium dioxide alternatives, read our recent interview with And for more bright ideas, contact our SOLUTION GURUS™ for applications guidance, hands-on support and technical assistance.



  1. Ingredion proprietary consumer research, 2020