We have mentioned EFSA before (European Food Safety Authority), it is the agency responsible for the safety and the suitability of additives and food products sold in Europe.

In this occasion, and in response to a petition from the European Commission in March 2020, EFSA has reevaluated once again the food additive titanium dioxide (E-171) and the verdict has not been positive.

Titanium dioxide is a food additive classified as colour, authorized by Regulation (CE) 1333/2008, used mainly because of its opacifying capacity. For instance, in food supplements it is used in colour capsules or for covering tablets. It is also used in the cosmetic and painting industries; however, these purposes are not affected by this ruling.

EFSA had already assessed this additive in 2016, recommending back then the development of more scientific studies due to the uncertainty around the particle-size characterization and its possible consequences on the reproductive system, which also recommended other food safety agencies such as ANSES (French Agency) and NVWA (the Netherlands Agency).

This last verdict has evaluated the presence of nanoparticles (less than 100 nanometers) to which consumers are exposed by ingesting E-171, that represents the 50% of the composition of titanium dioxide, and the conclusion is that genotoxicity after its consumption cannot be ruled out, even though absorption is low, nanoparticles can accumulate in the organism.

And what is genotoxicity? Is the substance’s capacity to damage the DNA and that can have carcinogenic effects.

The global conclusion is that they cannot dismiss the concern for genotoxicity (although this effect is not confirmed) and therefore a safe consumption level cannot be established for the dietary intake of this additive.

At least for now, we must wait for the European Commission to, through this scientific assessment, make the regulatory decision that believes it is the appropriate.