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Titanium dioxide: E171 no longer considered safe when used as a food additive
EFSA has updated its safety assessment of the food additive titanium dioxide (E 171), following a request by the European Commission in March 2020.
The updated evaluation revises the outcome of EFSA’s previous assessment published in 2016, which highlighted the need for more research to fill data gaps.
Prof Maged Younes, Chair of EFSA’s expert Panel on Food Additives and Flavourings (FAF), said: “Taking into account all available scientific studies and data, the Panel concluded that titanium dioxide can no longer be considered safe as a food additive. 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”.
The assessment was conducted following a rigorous methodology and taking into consideration many thousands of studies that have become available since EFSA’s previous assessment in 2016, including new scientific evidence and data on nanoparticles.
Our scientific experts applied for the first time the 2018 EFSA Scientific Committee Guidance on Nanotechnology to the safety assessment of food additives. Titanium dioxide E 171 contains at most 50% of particles in the nano range (i.e. less than 100 nanometres) to which consumers may be exposed.
Genotoxicity refers to the ability of a chemical substance to damage DNA, the genetic material of cells. As genotoxicity may lead to carcinogenic effects, it is essential to assess the potential genotoxic effect of a substance to conclude on its safety.
Prof Matthew Wright, both a member of the FAF Panel and chair of EFSA’s working group on E 171, said: “Although the evidence for general toxic effects was not conclusive, on the basis of the new data and strengthened methods we could not rule out a concern for genotoxicity and consequently we could not establish a safe level for daily intake of the food additive.”
Risk managers at the European Commission and in EU Member States have been informed of EFSA’s conclusions and will consider appropriate action to take to ensure consumers’ protection.