Following a re-evaluation, the EFSA (European Food Safety Authority) considers that titanium dioxide, used as an additive in foodstuffs under the name E171, may have negative effects on consumer health. At issue: its alleged genotoxic effect highlighted by several scientific studies. It is now up to Member States to take into account this opinion and decide on its ban, as France has done.

Titanium, dioxide, "no, longer, considered, safe, as, food, additive", according, to, EFSA

Titanium dioxide is a substance authorized as a food additive (E171) in foodstuffs, mainly confectionery, bakery products and sauces. It is also used in cosmetics, paints and medicines. But while the French government has decided to ban it since January 1, 2020 in food products only, it is still well and truly registered in the list of food additives authorized at the European level. A "situation simply incomprehensible and unjustifiable", as explained by the association UFC-Que Choisir on this subject. This is why the opinion on the issue of the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) was very expected.

The Agency has just decided and believes that "it can no longer be considered safe as a food additive. "This opinion is an "update" that amends the results of EFSA's previous assessment in 2016, which highlighted the need for further research to fill data gaps. One of its senior officials, Prof. Maged Younes says that a "decisive element in reaching this conclusion was that we could not exclude genotoxicity issues that could arise from the consumption of titanium dioxide particles. "This term refers to the ability of a chemical substance to damage DNA, the genetic material of cells.

"We have not been able to establish a safe level for daily intake"

Since genotoxicity of a substance can lead to carcinogenic effects, it is crucial to assess the potential genotoxic effect of a substance before deciding on its safety. The risk here is that after oral ingestion, titanium dioxide particles can accumulate in the body. Prof. Matthew Wright, chair of EFSA's working group on E171, adds, "Although the evidence for general toxic effects was not entirely conclusive, based on the new data and the enhanced methods used, we could not rule out a genotoxicity issue and could not establish a safe level for daily intake of this food additive. "

EFSA emphasizes that this assessment was conducted taking into account several thousand studies made available since the previous assessment in 2016, "including new scientific evidence and data on nanoparticles. "In addition, its scientific experts used data developed in 2018 by EFSA's scientific committee on nanotechnology, applying it to the safety assessment of food additives. This established that "titanium dioxide E171 contains at most 50% of nano-sized particles (i.e. less than 100 nanometers) to which consumers could be exposed. "

When will we see a clear-cut opinion on medicines and cosmetics?

The agency, whose opinion is only used to guide the decision of the European Commission and Member States, specifies however that its assessment focuses on the risks of TiO2 as a food additive, and not those related to other uses. What regrets the UFC-Que Choisir in a bill from its president Alain Bazot. Indeed, the latter deplores the fact that "neither the French ANSES nor the EFSA have looked into the presence of titanium dioxide in more than 4,000 medicines and nearly 7,000 cosmetic products likely to be ingested, such as toothpastes, balms and lipsticks, mouthwashes, including in their versions intended for children. "

Nevertheless, the organization, which feared that EFSA would question the ban in force in France, welcomes this "good news on additives". "As for consumers in other European countries, their safety now depends on the European Commission that I call to ban without delay this dye on the whole territory of the Union. "Alain Bazot adds. For its part, the government of Luxembourg immediately made known that it intends to intervene with the Commission "to proceed urgently with an adaptation of European legislation to ban titanium dioxide as a food additive at the European level. "