France Bans Titanium Dioxide (E 171) as Food Additive in Any Food

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November 6, 2018 - Sava Kostić

On 1 November 2018 the French Assembly published in France’s Official Journal, Law No. 2018-938 of 30 October 2018 for the balance of commercial relations in the agricultural and food sector, and healthy and sustainable food, accessible to all, which introduced a complete ban of the food additive titanium dioxide (E 171) in France. This law enters into force on 2 November 2018.

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Titanium dioxide, used mainly as a whitening and brightening agent in candy, chewing gum, white sauces and cake icing, is known as the artificial color E171 on food labels. It is also used in sunscreens because of the molecule's ability to reflect ultra-violet rays. French sources have repeatedly claimed that titanium dioxide serves no nutritional purpose, does not increase product shelf life and may pose a risk to humans since the nano-particles may be able to pass through the protective walls of organs such as the liver, lungs or intestines.

Consequently the French Government proposed a temporary ban of this additive as a national emergency measure. According to article L.521-17 of the French Consumer Code, in case of serious or immediate danger concerned ministries in the French government may suspend the placing on the market of a product as well as its manufacture, import or export for a period not exceeding one year. These products may be returned to the market when they have been found to comply with the regulations in force. The Code further states that any suspension may be renewed under the same procedure for additional periods, each of which shall not exceed one year. In other words, France can extend the ban year after year, unless the European Commission introduces the same measures under the Regulation on food additives 1333/2009/EC, which now is not the case. Titanium Dioxide is currently classified under Group II, Part E - Food colors authorized at quantum satis (Group II) for 50 use types.

Additionally this urgent measure implemented by France is in line with the article 54 of the EU Regulation No.178/2002/EC which lays down the general principles and requirements of food law, establishing the European Food Safety Authority and laying down procedures in matters of food safety. This means that if the Commission has not already implemented a similar measure on the Union level, the member state implementing an urgent measure may maintain its national interim protective measures until the Community measures have been adopted. France informed the European Commission of this urgent measure earlier this year, and therefore the Commission has confirmed that they have been working on the implementation of the same measures, i.e. banning titanium dioxide as food additive in any food, once the European Food Safety Agency (EFSA) has finalized all the necessary consultations on this issue. This means that it can be expected that the Commission will soon issue an equal prohibition of use of titanium dioxide as food additive.

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All manufactures or importers of food products containing titanium dioxide (E 171) are advised to take immediate measures in order to eliminate from the market those products containing this food additive. This ban is temporarily imposed for the period of one year, thus expiring on 2 November 2019. However national authorities can extend this temporary period. It is also expected that the European Commission will impose the same measures in the near future.

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