The food additive BANNED in the EU (and Northern Ireland) but still lurking in chewing gum, white chocolate and sauces sold in Britain

Armed with a dossier of research which suggested titanium dioxide caused cancer, EU health officials last year decided they had no choice but to ban the common food additive. 

Lawmakers in California proposed following suit, birthing the Golden State’s misleadingly named ‘Skittles ban’ that was approved by governor Gavin Newsom this week.

Yet titanium dioxide (or E171) — added to Skittles in the US, as well as white chocolate and chewing gum  — was not included in the bill after being dropped from the crosshairs last month. 

So, California lies at odds with the EU. 

But there’s still one place it still aligns perfectly with: Britain. Well, England, Scotland and Wales, anyway. 

Titanium dioxide (E171) has been used for decades to whiten foods to make them more visually appealing or restore colour. Baked goods, sandwich spreads, soups, sauces and salad dressings are among the foods it is found in. California this week banned brominated vegetable oil, potassium bromate, propylparaben and red dye No3 — all four of which have long been banished from food in the UK

Titanium dioxide (E171) has been used for decades to whiten foods to make them more visually appealing or restore colour. Baked goods, sandwich spreads, soups, sauces and salad dressings are among the foods it is found in. California this week banned brominated vegetable oil, potassium bromate, propylparaben and red dye No3 — all four of which have long been banished from food in the UK

E171 has been used for decades to whiten foods to make them more visually appealing or restore colour. Baked goods, sandwich spreads, soups, sauces and salad dressings are among the foods it is found in.

European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) bosses, who regularly probe whether ingredients pose any risk to health, concluded in a 2016 review that E171 was safe — though it noted that more research was needed to fill in gaps in knowledge. 

But in an updated May 2021 assessment, which took thousands of newly released studies into account, the EFSA was unable to confirm that any level of E171 was safe to consume.

Concerns centred on genotoxicity — the worry that the additive’s particles build up in the body and damage DNA or chromosomes, raising the risk of cancer. 

In response, the European Commission, which ordered the probe, eventually banned the ingredient in February 2022. Food makers were given six months to phase out its usage. 

It meant that, as of the end of 2022, titanium dioxide was no longer permitted to be used as a food additive in EU member states, including Northern Ireland

However, it can still be used in drugs, paints, paper, plastic and cosmetic products. 

In the UK, the Committee on Toxicity (COT), an independent scientific committee that advises the Food Standards Agency (FSA) and Department of Health, said the move was not justified, as the available evidence didn’t support the EFSA’s conclusions. 

In a separate verdict, the UK’s Committee on the Mutagenicity of Chemicals in Food, Consumer Products and the Environment (COM), said the EU’s move was based on ‘weak evidence’, was ‘highly risk adverse’ and may trigger ‘unnecessary concern’ among the public.

As a result, the additive is still found in foods sold in the UK, such as some cakes, chewing gum and mayonnaise.

However, the FSA told MailOnline that it is currently conducting a risk analysis of the ingredient, which is expected to be complete by early 2024.

E171 can also still be added to food sold in California, whose ruling applied to brominated vegetable oil, potassium bromate, propylparaben and red dye No3 — all four of which have long been banished from food in the UK. 

Dr Duane Mellor, a registered dietitian and senior lecturer at Aston University in Birmingham, said the EU took a stronger stance on E171 than the UK after considering questionable evidence.

He said a study on whether the additive triggers DNA damage — the mechanism by which it might cause cancer — suggested the particles didn’t cause changes to DNA.

‘Therefore, the basis on which it was banned has been further called into question,’ Dr Mellor said.

‘However, it should be noted that foods containing titanium oxide are less likely to be rich in fibre, vitamins and minerals and more likely to be foods we should be eating less often if we want to remain healthy.’

Professor Oliver Jones, a chemist at the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology, told MailOnline that questions around whether E171 is ‘really a matter of dose’.

He said: ‘Plenty of things we are exposed to every day cause cancer, including sunlight and alcohol. This doesn’t mean we will get cancer from going outside or that we should ban alcoholic drinks. 

‘Clearly it’s a question of how much sunlight and alcohol we are exposed to — one glass of wine a week is safer than 20 glasses a day for example.’

Professor Jones, former head of biosciences and food technology, said the additive should be evaluated on whether it causes cancer ‘at the level to which we are exposed to it’.

He said: ‘I don’t think the evidence stacks up for titanium dioxide. Many papers have show no effects and those papers that do indicate a possible effect are using amount many, many times higher than humans are exposed to.

‘I would be more worried about some of the potential replacements for titanium dioxide that we don’t have a lot of data on toxicity on.’

He noted that the EU has a ‘prove it is safe’ perspective when evaluating ingredients, while other watchdogs have a ‘prove it is harmful’ outlook.

However, Professor Tom Sanders, an expert in nutrition and dietetics at King’s College London, told MailOnline that it ‘would make sense’ for the UK to be ‘in step with EU on additives because of trade’. 

https://www.dailymail.co.uk/health/article-12619767/Food-additive-titanium-dioxide-BANNED-EU-UK-US.html?ns_mchannel=rss&ns_campaign=1490&ito=1490 The food additive BANNED in the EU (and Northern Ireland) but still lurking in chewing gum, white chocolate and sauces sold in Britain

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