NO SAFE! Titanium dioxide E171 no longer safe when used as food additive.

An expert panel of the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) has concluded that they cannot exclude genotoxicity concerns after consumption of titanium dioxide particles.

Titanium dioxide is used as food colour (E171) to make food more visually appealing, to give colour or to restore the original appearance of food. It is frequently used in bakery wares, soups, broths, sauces, salads, savoury based sandwich spreads and processed nuts, but is also present in cosmetics, paints, and medicines.

It was authorised as a food additive in the EU according to Annex II of Regulation (EC) No. 1333/2008, but since 2016, it has been subject to numerous re-evaluations:

  • By the Panel on Food Additives and Nutrient Sources Added to Food (ANS) in 2016 in the frame of Regulation (EU) No. 257/2010, which recommended new studies to fill the gaps on possible effects on the reproductive system.
  • In 2019, the French Agency for Food Safety, the Environment and Occupational Health (Anses) issued a report reiterating the uncertainties and data gaps previously identified by EFSA about the food use of titanium dioxide (E171).
  • In the same year (2019), the Netherlands Food and Consumer Product Safety Authority (NVWA) also delivered an opinion on possible health effects, including immunotoxicological effects or potential reprotoxicological effects.

The updated evaluation was conducted following a rigorous methodology and taking into consideration thousands of studies that have become available since EFSA’s previous assessment in 2016, including new scientific evidence and data on nanoparticles.

What is EFSA saying in its 2021 opinion?

EFSA concluded that a concern for genotoxicity of TiO2 particles cannot be ruled out. Genotoxicity refers to the ability of a chemical substance to damage DNA, the genetic material of cells, which may lead to carcinogenic effects.

Professor Maged Younes, from the expert Panel on Food Additives and Flavourings (FAF), said:

“Considering all available scientific studies and data, the Panel concluded that titanium dioxide can no longer be considered safe as a food additive. [...] We could not exclude genotoxicity concerns after consumption of titanium dioxide particles. After oral ingestion, the absorption of titanium dioxide particles is low, however they can accumulate in the body.

EFSA’s scientific advice will be used by risk managers (the European Commission, Member States) to inform any decisions they take on possible regulatory actions.