18 January 2022

Titanium Dioxide No Longer Permitted as Food Colour Additive in the EU

The EU Commission Regulation (EU) 1022/63 declaring that Titanium Dioxide, or TiO2, can no longer be used as a food colour additive in the European Union was published on 18th January 2021.

Titanium dioxide (E171) is a naturally occurring mineral that is bright white in appearance. Its chemical structure and particle size make it ideal for whitening or creating opacity in food applications. These unique characteristics often make it difficult to substitute.

titanium dioxide powder in bowl

As part of the re-evaluation of all food additives in 2016, EFSA reviewed the safety of Titanium Dioxide and considered it safe at the current usage levels but recommended further studies be carried out. In the meantime, additional studies were carried out leading to the French Authorities suspending its use as a food additive in France from the beginning of 2020.

EFSA reviewed the French work and said it “does not identify any major new finding that would overrule the conclusions made in the previous EFSA scientific opinion” but awaited new data that was being generated by the manufacturers. With the new information, in March 2021 EFSA concluded that E 171 can no longer be considered as safe when used as a food additive.

While EFSA is responsible for risk assessment in the EU, they can’t create regulations. Risk management is the responsibility of the European Commission and Member States, who discussed the outcome and appropriate measures. They determined that, as there was no immediate health concern linked to titanium dioxide, the usual procedures would be followed and they introduced a six month implementation period allowing foods containing titanium dioxide to be placed on the market up to 7th August 2021 and continue to be marketed for their shelf life.

Titanium dioxide is also used in medicines, such as tablets. Since the permitted list of colours in medicines is based on the list of those permitted in foods, to avoid disruption to the supply of medicines, it will remain on the list of permitted colours, but with no permitted food uses. It will be reviewed in three years’ time.

Finally, as the UK is no longer a member of the EU, this legislation will not apply to Great Britain.  Instead, the UK experts are in the process of reviewing the scientific data and published an interim opinion in 2021. Therefore, the legislation affecting titanium dioxide is currently unaffected in GB and titanium dioxide can continue to be used.

For information on alternatives to Titanium Dioxide, visit our learning center.

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