EC to review safety of titanium dioxide following EFSA conclusion

21 May 2021

EFSA has raised safety concerns regarding the use of titanium dioxide as a food additive

Titanium dioxide (TiO2, E171) is a food additive that is commonly used to enhance or brighten white coloured food or preserve food products that are sensitive to UV light. It can be manufactured through one of two processes, either by using the sulphite process or the chlorine route. Both of which end with a milling process to produce the desired optical quality. Due to the nature of the extensive chemical treatment during manufacture, the finished product is not considered natural. The milling process results in at most 50% of the material being in the nano scale (i.e. < 100 nanometres).

EFSA’s conclusion on the safety of titanium dioxide

Following the European Food Safety Authority’s (EFSA) recent review of titanium dioxide, the additive is no longer considered to be safe by EFSA as a food additive. Their news article on 6 May 2021 stated “A critical element in reaching this conclusion is that 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”.

Is titanium dioxide banned in Europe?

At the time of writing, titanium dioxide is not legally banned for use in food products. EFSA is an advisory body to the European Commission (EC) and in their advisory role they have referred their findings to the EC. The EC will reflect upon the findings before reaching a conclusion on whether to issue or amend relevant legislation.

Next steps

Leatherhead Food Research is monitoring the evolving situation and any conclusions published by the EC. Have you got questions about titanium dioxide or other food additives? Get in touch with our expert team of regulatory advisors on [email protected]

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