Nothing is a brighter white than titanium dioxide. Not even zinc oxide, which lifeguards wear on their noses in the form of bright white sunscreen. Titanium dioxide is a gigantic (understatement) industrial commodity, but only food-grade titanium dioxide is permitted in foods. Titanium dioxide is obtained from the naturally occurring mineral, ilmenite, which occurs in three crystalline forms: anatase, brookite, and rutile. At present, only synthetic anatase meets FDA purity guidelines. Consequently, in commercial form, titanium dioxide is a bright white, free-flowing, insoluble powder. It is the strongest “whitener” known to man, with a hiding power 5X greater than its nearest competitor, zinc oxide (sorry, lifeguards).
As mentioned, titanium dioxide can be extracted from the anatase crystalline form of ilmenite or it can be prepared synthetically. At present, two companies worldwide account for over ninety percent of the annual production of titanium dioxide, all of it prepared synthetically. Titanium dioxide has been the subject of rigorous toxicology studies, all of which have shown the mineral to be safe. Titanium dioxide may be diluted with silicone dioxide and/or aluminum oxide, not to exceed two percent total. These additives are used as flow-agents.
Titanium dioxide is used extensively in the food, nutritional, cosmetic, personal care, medical, and paint industries. The paint industry is the largest consumer of titanium dioxide, followed by the cosmetic industry. In the food industry, titanium dioxide may be used in candy, coatings, baked goods, frostings, ice cream, and sauces. Titanium dioxide can be suspended in solution with gums in beverages, where it delivers both whiteness and milky opacity without being a dairy ingredient.