The ban on titanium dioxide (TiO2) as a food additive has come into force across the EU this month, after it was deemed as “not safe” by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA).
The decision by the EFSA last year was not met with any objections by either the European Parliament or the Council of the EU, Dr. Nina McGrath, area lead for content production, European Food Information Council (EUFIC), tells NutritionInsight.
As a result, “producers will deal with a six-month phasing out period, during which companies will need to work on reformulating their products if they want to keep them on the market.”
“After this time, a full ban on marketing foods containing titanium dioxide as an additive will apply across the EU,” she adds.
Implementing the ban
According to McGrath, regulations do not leave any discretion to member states in implementing EU law, as they are legally binding.
“It is the responsibility of each member state to ensure implementation and enforcement of the regulation in their country.”
France banned the use of the additive in 2020, leading companies such as Lonza to launch Vcaps Plus White Opal, its first commercially-available titanium dioxide-free semi-opaque capsule for food supplements. The move followed several lobby groups urging the European Commission to prohibit TiO2.
The French Agency for Food, Environmental and Occupational Health & Safety last year called for a uniform approach to screening nanomaterials like TiO2. The methodology proposed specific adaptations related to regulatory definitions, particle size measurements, dissolution properties and hazard identification.
Wide-ranging use of TiO2
Also known as E171, TiO2 is used as a color in the nutrition industry, including as an opacifier in capsules. It is used in soups, sauces, sandwich spreads and processed nut products, among others, EUFIC notes. It is also used in candy, chewing gum, cake icing and white sauces. In cosmetic and skincare products, titanium dioxide is also used as a pigment, thickener and as a sunscreen ingredient.
Notably, the item is also used in medicinal products for both humans and animals in the EU, underscores McGrath.
“At the moment, these products will remain in use to avoid shortages that could affect public and animal health. However, the new regulation banning the use of TiO2 as a food additive includes a review clause according to which the Commission will need to re-evaluate the situation with respect to use of the TiO2 in medicinal products within three years of the regulation entering into the force.”
Buildup to the ban
The ban came as a result of an EFSA review of the item. The body is responsible for the periodic re-evaluation of food additives that have been approved for use in the past.
“During the re-evaluation, the main concern raised was about the potential genotoxicity of titanium dioxide (e.g., its ability to damage genetic material in our cells.) While this updated assessment could not confirm a definite genotoxic effect, the EFSA panel concluded they did not have enough evidence to rule out concerns about potential genotoxicity,” highlights EUFIC.
The review body noted it also did not have sufficient data to calculate a safe daily intake level of TiO2 and moved to its ban.
The move to ban TiO2 was not met by huge surprise by industry, as the item was under global review for “considerable time,” Döhler previously told FoodIngredientsFirst. This has long sparked a demand for alternatives as companies have been working toward reformulations.
As a result, industry has been phasing out artificial dyes and turning to plant-forward foods. Items such as blue spirulina, yellow turmeric extract, and red elderberry extracts have been spotlighted for their potential.
The turn to more natural items is reflective of Innova Market Insights Top Ten Trend, number two: ‘Plant-Based: The Canvas for Innovation’ as consumers consider plant-based alternatives to be healthier and better for the planet.
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