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Common Food Coloring Reclassified as Unsafe by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA)

May, 2021

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Food coloring E171 (titanium dioxide) has been reclassified by European food safety panel, after the expert authority confirmed that it “can no longer be considered safe as a food additive.”

European Food Safety Authority’s announcement regarding reclassifying common food coloring as unsafe, has come after several years of enormous research signifying the additive may be unsafe. E171 is basically used as a whitening agent in food products and can be easily found in several processed foods, which include chewing gum, confectionary, mayonnaise, and ice cream. In 2016, the EFSA (European Food Safety Authority) re-examined the safety concerns regarding E171 and stated that there was no proof validating the food additive was genotoxic or carcinogenic. This assessment raised the need for additional research into the health effects of E171.

At that time, a minor but developing body of research had started to indicate the potential health risks of titanium dioxide. The research stated that E171 may be augmented once it enters human body in the form of nanoparticles. Over the succeeding years, several studies were published specifically focusing on the unique health effects of nanoparticles. A dangerous element in reaching this decision is that one cannot exclude genotoxicity issues after consuming titanium dioxide particles. Post-oral consumption, the absorption of titanium dioxide particles remains less. However, they can still gather in the human body.

Maged Younes from the EFSA’s panel, while re-evaluating the food additive, stated that there are still uncertainties in the research but worries over genotoxicity cannot be ruled out. The latest EFSA classification does not call an instantaneous ban of the food additive in the European Union. However, the suggestion does conventionally lead to governing actions taken by the European Commission. The Health & Food Safety Commissioner of Europe, Stella Kyriakides clearly stated on her Twitter handle that the usage of E171 in the European Union (EU) will be banned as soon as possible.

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