Titanium dioxide, that shiny white colorant used often in chewing gum tablets and other candy pellets, is no longer considered safe by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA).
The ingredient, which carries the E number E 171, has been under scrutiny by EFSA since 2016, and the European Commission formally requested its review in March 2020. 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.
The ingredient remains generally recognized as safe in the U.S.
“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,” said Prof. Matthew Wright, both a member of EFSA’s expert Panel on Food Additives and Flavourings and chair of EFSA’s working group on E 171.
Genotoxicity refers to the ability of a chemical substance to damage DNA, and ultimately may lead to carcinogenic effects.
"A critical element in reaching this conclusion is that we could not exclude genotoxicity concerns after consumption of titanium dioxide particles," added Prof. Maged Younes, chair of the Panel on Food Additives and Flavourings. "After oral ingestion, the absorption of titanium dioxide particles is low, however they can accumulate in the body.”
In this case, EFSA scientific experts applied for the first time the 2018 EFSA Scientific Committee Guidance on Nanotechnology. Titanium dioxide E 171 contains at most 50% of particles in the nano range (i.e., less than 100 nanometers) to which consumers may be exposed.