French calls to ban titanium dioxide intensify, minister praises agile confectioners’ voluntary removal


24 May 2018 --- The French government has highlighted the good practices of food companies that remove titanium dioxide from their recipes as the country debates banning its use by the end of this year. On a recent visit to France, Verquin Confiseur, the French Secretary of State to the Minister for the Ecological and Inclusive Transition, Brune Poirson, praised the efforts of manufacturers for voluntarily removing the food additive.

Titanium dioxide is commonly used as a pigment to bring a bright and smooth white appearance to pastries or confectionery or to opacify yogurt or ice cream and has “no recognized nutritional value,” according to the French minister.


Known as the artificial color E171 on European food labels, titanium dioxide is also used in candy, chewing gum, cake icing and white sauces. In cosmetic and skin care products, titanium dioxide is used as a pigment, sunscreen and a thickener.


Opponents to its use also point out that is does not increase a products’ shelf-life.


Last January, the National Institute of Agronomic Research (INRA) published a study on the ingestion of titanium dioxide highlighting cellular inflammation phenomena, potentially precursors of carcinogenesis. The study warns that it may pose a health risk because the nano-particles may be able to pass through the protective walls of the lungs, liver and intestines. Other studies also suspect similar effects.


This possible link with cancer is why the French government is ready to ban the substance by the end of 2018 and policymakers have already prepared an amendment to the draft law which could make this possible.


Following the studies linking the food additive with possible health risks, the French public authorities reacted by asking the European Commission in February 2018 to suspend the use of titanium dioxide and to re-evaluate its impacts.


The European Food Safety Agency (EFSA) is due to issue a new opinion on the additive this summer.


Then there is the amendment under the draft law on the General States of Food, led by Stéphane Travert, Minister of Agriculture and Food, allowing if necessary to adopt by the end of the 2018 measures to suspend the placing on the market and use of E171.


By praising the efforts of companies like Verquin Confiseur for removing titanium dioxide from its flagship products, Poirson wants to encourage more food manufacturers to follow suit.


“It is essential to question the real utility of a substance whose only interest would be to make whiter than white food while serious doubts weigh on the health risks associated with its ingestion,” she says.


“The government is determined and that is why I wanted to highlight the best practices of precursor companies that, without  delay, have already chosen the removal of titanium dioxide from their products.”


Earlier this month, FoodIngredientsFirst spoke with Sensient Colors Europe GmbH, on its latest solution to bypass titanium dioxide.


Achieving a pure white without using titanium dioxide, has always been a challenge and with more people now looking for an alternative product, Sensient recently launched Avalanche – The New White.


The innovative Avalanche range is designed to best match the performance of TiO2 and offers strong whitening with excellent stability. The ingredient performs well in applications from confectionery such as hard-boiled candies through to sauces and instant beverages.


By Gaynor Selby

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