This press release announces the intention of the Ministère de la Transistion écologique et solidaire to ban the food additive E171 (titanium dioxide) from Jan. 1, 2020 onwards. The ban is being enacted in response to findings by Agence nationale de sécurité sanitaire de l’alimentation, de l’environnement et du travail (ANSES) that there is not enough information available on the health risks of exposure to E171, particularly in nano form.
E171 is comprised of micro- and nanoparticles of titanium dioxide. It is primarily used as a whitening agent in food. It has not been regulated specifically as a nanomaterial in the past because it typically contains less than 50% nano-sized particles. Nonetheless, the 10-40% nano-sized particles found in it are what have regulators concerned.
Recent data on oral toxicity of E171 in rats has shown that the titanium dioxide nanoparticles can cross the intestinal barrier and travel to other parts of the body, can alter the immune response of exposed animals, and can promote early stages of colorectal carcinogenesis. This data inspired the ANSES inquiry into studies on E171 toxicity. ANSES reviewed 25 studies and concluded that there was not enough data to demonstrate that E171 is safe for humans. This has lead for other organizations to call for an EU-wide ban on E171 as a food additive.