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Food Ingredients

Titanium dioxide unsafe in food, EU panel says

by Britt E. Erickson
May 15, 2021 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 99, Issue 18


Photo of a slice of cake with white frosting on a plate.
Credit: Shutterstock
Titanium dioxide is no longer considered safe for use in cake frosting and other foods, European Union food regulators say.

The whitening agent titanium dioxide is not safe for use as a food additive, an expert panel of the European Food Safety Authority concludes in an updated assessment. The new evaluation replaces a 2016 assessment and paves the way for a ban on titanium dioxide in food in the European Union. Titanium dioxide is added to foods such as cake frosting, soups, and sauces to brighten their color. Known as E171, titanium dioxide food additives in the EU can contain no more than 50% of particles less than 100 nm. EFSA previously found data gaps related to the characterization of particle size and particle size distribution of E171. In its latest assessment, the agency says that it could not exclude genotoxicity concerns related to consumption of titanium dioxide particles. “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,” Matthew Wright, chair of EFSA’s working group on E171, says in a statement.


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