The move will implicate US confectioneries, including chewing gum, and pastries, affecting $6m in exports, according to the USDA Foreign Agricultural Service.
Titanium dioxide is often used as a white pigment in confectioneries such as candy-covered chocolates, cakes and sugar-coated almonds.
The French Agricultural Institute (INRA) published a study in 2017 that pointed to ‘pre-tumorous damage’ in the colons of rats given TiO2 nanoparticles. The research revealed that the chemical is absorbed by the intestine and passed into the bloodstream, eventually reaching the liver, small intestine and colon. Researchers noticed an imbalance in immune response in tested rats in the colon and spleen, as well as lesions.
The French Food safety agency (ANSES) also recommended that TiO2 be classified as a possible carcinogen when inhaled.
French lawmakers proposed banning the import and marketing of food products with titanium dioxide in April 2018, while discussing the country’s farm bill, but ultimately any mention was omitted from the final bill. The deliberation, however, raised awareness in the public sphere and within consumer groups and NGOs.
The USDA added that French confectionery companies, including Mars Wrigley Confectionery France, voiced concern over the ban when discussions began last year.
Mars has since confirmed that it would ‘be ready to phase out’ titanium dioxide by 2020 – investing $100m in the process. The candy giant’s facility in Haguenau, France, will transition to TiO2-free production by mid-2019, according to the USDA.
Additionally, the French confectioner’s association noted that 90% of the country’s food manufacturers have already ceased using the chemical.
The US exports $3.6m worth of candy to France and imports $2.3m.