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Use of Food Additive Titanium Dioxide (E171) Before the Introduction of Regulatory Restriction Due to Concern for Genotoxicity

European Union

Jun 29, 2021

Food additives are used for a variety of technological or processing reasons, including to add or restore colour in a food. In European Union (EU) the safety of food additives was in history assessed by the Scientific Committee on Food, while the role of risk accessor is not in hands of the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA). Only additives for which the proposed uses is considered safe are on the EU list of authorized additives. Very recently in May 2020, a scientific opinion was published by the EFSA, concluding that TiO2 can no longer be considered as a safe food additive, and the European Commission is expected to remove it from list of authorized food additives in near future. Our aim was to investigate the trends in the use of TiO2 in the food supply. A case study was conducted in Slovenia, using two nationally representative cross-sectional datasets of branded foods. Original sample contained 49,919 pre-packed food items, while analyses was done on N=12.644 foods (6.012 and 6.632 in 2017 and 2020, respectively) from 15 food subcategories, where TiO2 was found as food additive. Overall, we observed significantly decrease in use of TiO2 (3.6% vs. 1.8%; p<0.01) in the course of these three years. The most TiO2-containing foods were in the Chewing gum category (36.3%) in 2017, and Chocolate and sweets (45.9%) in 2020. Meanwhile in 2017 the largest within-category share of TiO2-containing foods was Chewing gum category, namely 70.3%, and those products presented over 85% of the market-share. In 2020 only 24.6% chewing gums contained TiO2, and those were accounting only 3% of the market share. In con-clusion, we showed overall decrease of TiO2 use and considerable improvements in certain food categories (particularly in chewing gums) despite the fact, that this additive has not yet been of-ficially removed from the list of authorized additives. Specific food categories (i.e. Chocolate and sweets) were identified, where product-reformulation is needed, and where official controls by authorities will be most relevant.

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