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European Food Safety Panel Regards Commonly Used Food Coloring E171 As ‘Unsafe’

May, 2021

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The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) reclassifies the food coloring named E171 titanium dioxide, as ‘no longer safe as food additive’.

The EFSA first re-evaluated about the safety of E171 food additive in 2016 when there were certain rumors regarding the food additive being carcinogenic or harmful for human consumption. However, in 2016, the EFSA ruled out the claim as there were no clear evidence to state the same. Later, many research bodies started evaluating about the possibility of harmful effects of titanium dioxide when the particle size was less than 100 nm in diameter. In 2015, Dunkin Donuts also made the decision to remove titanium dioxide as a food color after facing pressure from several public advocacy groups. In 2020, France also banned the use of this food additive in the country.

The new research focuses on the health effects of nano-sized titanium dioxide. Even though EFSA panel’s chairperson, Maged Younes stated that more research is needed to support the harmful effects of the titanium dioxide as a food additive, however, the chances of genotoxicity can’t be simply ruled out until the panel finally reclassifies the food additive as safe again. The panel made this decision temporarily following the currently available scientific studies on the food additive.

The panel stated that since the scientific data did not rule out the possibility of titanium dioxide causing genotoxicity in humans, they can’t consider the food additive as safe until there is final evident data stating otherwise. Currently, in various research findings, it was observed that the food additive accumulated inside the human body when orally ingested. The food additive E171 is mainly used as a whitening agent in many varied food products. The complete ban on the same is still awaited, but is expected to be proposed soon.  

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