Test of chemicals in chewing gum

3. jun 2021

Chewing gum can contain substances suspected of being endocrine disruptors and suspected of damaging your DNA. Chewing gum for adults still performs better than chewing gum for children.

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Photo: Getty Images

Chewing gum: 70 percent contains unwanted chemicals

The Danish Consumer Council THINK Chemicals has made the largest test of chewing gum brands to date. 201 different kinds of chewing gum have been tested for unwanted chemicals.

The chewing gum test shows that 30 percent of the 201 products tested are free of problematic additives.

The result shows that it is progressing in terms of avoiding the chemicals BHA and BHT suspected of being endocrine disruptors. However, several of the chewing gums tested contain titanium dioxide suspected of being able to damage human DNA. See the tested packages of chewing gum at the bottom of the page.

See the chewing gums in the test with product pictures and assessments (link to page in Danish)

The cocktail effect: Additives can be problematic

In the test, the Danish Consumer Council THINK Chemicals has checked 201 packets of chewing gum for the additives BHA (E320), BHT (E321) and titanium dioxide (E171).

BHA and BHT extend the shelf life of chewing gum. However, the drugs are also suspected of being endocrine disruptors. Animal experiments show that exposure to endocrine disruptors can lead to decreased sperm quality, malformations of the genitals and premature puberty.

Therefore, they are listed on various official lists of unwanted chemicals. Chewing gum with BHA or BHT does not pose an acute risk, and the individual chewing gum pack is not problematic in itself. However, due to the so-called cocktail effect, researchers are concerned about our exposure to problematic substances in various products in everyday life.

Therefore, it is a good idea to avoid chewing gum with BHA or BHT to minimize the risk of the overall effect of problematic substances.

Prohibition of titanium dioxide in food on the way

Titanium dioxide is a naturally occurring color pigment that makes chewing gum appear chalky white. In May 2021, the European Food Authority EFSA released a new risk assessment of titanium dioxide and how it is absorbed into the body.

EFSA now assesses that ingestion of the substance can damage human genetic material (DNA). When a substance can damage a person's DNA, there is a growing suspicion that the substance may be carcinogenic.

The EU Commission has therefore announced a forthcoming ban on titanium dioxide in food.

See all tests from The Danish Consumer Council THINK Chemicals

Chewing gum for children: Several still contain unwanted chemicals

In the test, 2 out of 3 children's chewing gum contains the additives BHA or BHT suspected of being endocrine disruptors. It has not changed since the test made by the Danish Consumer Council THINK Chemicals in 2019. However, it is an improvement compared to the test in 2016, where 4 out of 5 packs of chewing gum contained BHA or BHT. 23 percent of children's chewing gum contains titanium dioxide.

Chewing gum marketed to children is in 10 cases free of problematic additives. The good choices of brands for children are Fini and Candinavia. Ordinary packets of chewing gum generally do better than children's chewing gum when it comes to the content of unwanted chemicals.

The Danish Consumer Council THINK Chemicals’ test methods

How we tested

The Danish Consumer Council THINK Chemicals has purchased chewing gum in a number of Danish shops and web shops.

Subsequently, the test team reviewed 201 different packages of chewing gum for the substances BHA (E320), BHT (E321) and titanium dioxide (E171).

BHA and BHT are allowed in chewing gum and other foods, but they are suspected of being endocrine disruptors. Both substances have shown endocrine disrupting effects in animal experiments.

The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) has not assessed titanium dioxide as safe for use in food. This is due to suspicion of damage to human DNA, and suspicion that it may be carcinogenic. The European Commission has announced a ban on the substance in food.

The test is a declaration test. This means that the ingredient list has been checked for unwanted chemicals, but the quantities of the substances in the products have not been analyzed.

The Danish Consumer Council Think Chemicals has carried out similar tests focusing on BHA / BHT back in 2015, 2016 and 2019. This year, we also checked the content of titanium dioxide.

 

What we found

What we found in the 201 examined packages of chewing gum:

  • 70% or 140 packets of chewing gum in the test contain BHA / BHT / Titanium dioxide.
  • 30% or 60 packets of chewing gum in the test do not contain BHA / BHT / Titanium dioxide.

In 2019, 79 packages (51%) contained BHA or BHT, and 76 packages (49 %) were without. In 2016, 102 packages (65%) contained BHA or BHT and 55 packages (35%) were without.

The tendency is that fewer packets of chewing gum contain BHA or BHT. However, because chewing gum has now also been tested for titanium dioxide, there are still fewer good choices in the test from 2021.

Chewing gum for children

Of the 67 packages of children's chewing gum, 57 packages (85%) contain BHA, BHT or titanium dioxide. Only 10 packages (15%) were without.

In 2019, 57 packages were checked and 37 packages (65%) contained BHA or BHT.

In 2016, 68 packages were checked and 55 packages (81%) contained BHA or BHT.

Ordinary chewing gum

Of the 134 packs of chewing gum not specifically marketed to children, 84 packs (63%) contain BHA, BHT or titanium dioxide. 50 packages (37%) are without BHA, BHT or titanium dioxide.

In 2019, 98 packages of regular chewing gum were checked and 42 packages (43%) contained BHA or BHT.

In 2016, the result was 48 percent out of 88 checked products.

Market development

There are indications that BHA and BHT are slowly phased out when it comes to chewing gum in general. In any case, there are fewer packets of chewing gum with the two substances than before.

In 2016, the Danish Consumer Council THINK Chemicals checked the chemicals in chewing gum, where 62 percent of 157 products contained BHA or OH. However, in 2019, something happened. Only 51 percent contained BHA or BHT. In the new test, only 40 percent now contain the unwanted substances.

However, when it comes to children's chewing gum, it looks different. There is no increase of products without BHT or BHA. On the contrary, it seems there is an increase of these products with this unwanted substance marketed to this vulnerable group.

This year, the Danish Consumer Council THINK Chemicals has also chosen to look for titanium dioxide. This means that the number with good choices decreases significantly.

New scientific studies have led to the fact that titanium dioxide is no longer safe in food and a ban is on the way. Therefore, the Danish Consumer Council THINK Chemicals cannot recommend products with this substance.

BHA is included in the EU list of substances that have shown hormonal disorders (external link to report)

About titanium dioxide (E171)

Titanium dioxide is a naturally occurring color pigment that makes chewing gum appear chalky white.

In May 2021, the EFSA (EU Food Safety Authority) published an assessment of titanium dioxide in food, concluding that it was not safe to use.

It cannot be ruled out that ingestion of the substance damages human DNA. Therefore suspected to be carcinogenic.

EU Commission announces forthcoming ban on titanium dioxide in food (external link)

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