I have read in several places about the claim that Oreo cookies may be using titanium dioxide in their preparation. This additive, although widely used, has been recently under the suspicion of provoking cancer (still low level of risk and not conclusive). I read that this food additive was recently banned in France. The question is that Oreos are still being sold in France supermarkets and moreover in the package (in France and other EU countries) there is no mention at all to this additive E171 in the EU mandatory ingredients label. So my question is: how true is the assertion that Oreo cookies contain that substance?

My guess is that this is a legend or something done in order to damage the reputation of the company because they would be forced by law to declare their use of this additive and if they do not mention it that has to mean that they are not using it. Am I right?

Or maybe they are using it but it is afterwards taken away from the cookies so the final product does not contain it and it is thus free from any possible contamination and risks associated with E171. I personally find this point a bit tricky and would not be surprised if this last point is true but using Occam's razor makes me thing that the most probable is that the claim that they use the ingredient without labelling it is just a hoax to damage the company's large reputation in favour of their (smaller) competitors (even more when the information that they use E171 in the production of the cookies is linked to a case of patent infringement and stealing of protected industrial secrets and information).

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    Welcome to Skeptics.SE! As far as I can tell, this question belongs here just fine: you've found a specific notable claim, you've provided a link to it, and you're asking whether it's true or not.
    – F1Krazy
    Dec 10, 2020 at 19:55
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    I've created a chat room to discuss this.
    – Oddthinking
    Dec 11, 2020 at 1:20
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    The relevant EU regulation would be 1169/2011, in particular article 20 ("Omission of constituents of food from the list of ingredients"). Unfortunately I do not know enough about food chemistry to know if titanium dioxide would fall under any of these categories of exceptions.
    – Philipp
    Dec 11, 2020 at 15:29
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    Looking at a UK supermarket listing, titanium dioxide is listed as a colouring ingredient in Oreo doughnuts but not in Oreo cookies. This is not proof, but given this is the same brand in the same retailer, it does suggest that the cookies may not contain the ingredient in question.
    – Henry
    Dec 11, 2020 at 19:26
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    I just discovered that Chocolate Marshmallow flavored Oreo cookies have titanium dioxide listed in the ingredients as part of the "marshmallow pieces" - with the notation "for color". hy-vee.com/grocery/PD50881459/…
    – Mark
    Dec 12, 2020 at 17:23

1 Answer 1


It seems that all our comments and findings together form a more or less plausible answer to the question. Please, feel free to improve this proto-answer by filling it with your links and the respective details that each one of you found: it seem that we did a great team job together and this answer has to be something that we fill and sign together (if you want!). Let me summarize.

  1. It does not seem that Nabisco is trying to hide its use of E171 as some of their products based in the same idea of the original cookie recognize this use in the ingredients label.

  2. It depends on the cookie (sub)type (that is, special flavours and tastes might contain E171) and, when they make use of E171, this is correctly noted.

  3. The fact that the use of E171 by Nabisco is so inconsistent between their products (which might well be due to the efforts of the company in order to adapt its production to the respective food-additive-use laws of the countries where each product is comercialized: this explain that in the EU and in their main cookie they avoid the use of E171 given the fact that France's ban of this product will strength the control in general inside the EU market over products which use E171 and for comercial reasons it makes sense to sell within the EU market products that can be moved equally from one country to the other) provoked the (maybe) mistaken interpretation of the media (related to a lawyer’s jury allegation in an unrelated industrial espionage case by China) that they are using it to white the "creme" of all their cookies, which (at least now because I am not sure if they changed the recipe after the news were released as a consequence of France's ban) is not true (anymore?) for their main (original flavour) cookie (at least when this one has to be comercialized in France, Germany and maybe more or all EU countries).

  4. It is also thus still possible that they were using that ingredient before the media noted it or before France's food regulators disallowed the use of E171 as a food additive.

  5. The cookie and other subtypes of cookies thought to be sold outside the EU market might still contain that additive (in fact, at the time of writing this some special cookies in UK still use the additive and I myself just observed that in Germany Oreo doughnuts also contain E171).

  6. Summing up we get an answer to the main question in the title, it seems that effectively Nabisco (or Mondeléz) lists all the used ingredients correctly (as expected) but, in fact, some cookies still have this ingredient E171 and some not: this depends on both the subtype of the cookie and the particular food-additive-use regulations in each geographical area where the product is supposed to be marketed.

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    Could I know why the negative vote?
    – Hvjurthuk
    Dec 13, 2020 at 1:52

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