E171 additive used in sweets and cakes not safe - EU food watchdog

The widely used artificial food colouring, known as E171 on food labels contains nanoparticles of titanium dioxide and is commonly used in consumer products.
E171 additive used in sweets and cakes not safe - EU food watchdog

The European Commission, as we as individual EU member countries will now have to decide whether or not to ban the E171 additive. Picture: PA

The EU's food safety watchdog has said a food additive used commonly as a whitening agent in sweets, chewing gum, white sauces and cake icing is no longer safe for consumption.

The widely used artificial food colouring, known as E171 on food labels contains nanoparticles of titanium dioxide and is commonly used in consumer products.

The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) has said following a review, there was a risk that titanium dioxide nanoparticles could cause DNA damage. The EFSA said no safe level for its daily intake could be established.

Maged Younes, chair of EFSA's expert panel on food additives said: "Taking into account all available scientific studies and data, the panel concluded that titanium dioxide can no longer be considered safe as a food additive."

The European Commission, as we as individual EU member countries will now have to decide whether or not to ban the E171 additive.

In 2020, France suspended its use in food following health fears.

Research on titanium dioxide suggested that the substance could cause pre-cancerous lesions in lab rats.

In a statement, Dr Younes said: "A critical element in reaching this conclusion is that we could not exclude genotoxicity concerns after consumption of titanium dioxide particles.

"After oral ingestion, the absorption of titanium dioxide particles is low, however, they can accumulate in the body."

Genotoxicity refers to the ability of a chemical substance to damage DNA.

Matthew Wright, chairman of EFSA's working group on E171, added: "Although the evidence for general toxic effects was not conclusive, on the basis of the new data and strengthened methods we could not rule out a concern for genotoxicity.

"And consequently we could not establish a safe level for daily intake of the food additive."

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