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May 10, 2021

EFSA Panel Concludes That Titanium Dioxide Cannot Be Considered Safe as a Food Additive

Lynn L. Bergeson Carla N. Hutton

On May 6, 2021, the European Food Safety Association (EFSA) announced that E171 is no longer considered safe when used as a food additive.  The European Commission (EC) asked EFSA to update its safety assessment of the food additive titanium dioxide (E171).  EFSA states:  “Taking into account all available scientific studies and data, the Panel [on Food Additives and Flavorings] 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.”  According to EFSA, the Panel applied for the first time the 2018 EFSA Scientific Committee guidance on nanotechnology to the safety assessment of food additives.  EFSA states that “[t]itanium 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.”  EFSA notes that its evaluation is related to the risks of titanium dioxide used as a food additive, not to other uses.  EFSA has not banned E171.  Any legislative or regulation decisions on the authorizations of food additives are the responsibility of the EC and member states, who will now “reflect on EFSA’s scientific advice and decide upon any appropriate regulatory measures or advice for consumers.”