France to Suspend Use of Titanium Dioxide (E 171) as Food Additive for One Year

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May 9, 2019 - Sava Kostić

Summary            

On 25 April 2019 France officially banned the use of titanium dioxide (E 171) effective 1 January 2020. The ban will remain in force until at least 31 December 2020, after which it may be renewed for another year.

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On 25 April 2019 the French Ministry of Economy and Finance and the Ministry of Environment jointly issued an order officially banning titanium dioxide (E 171) in connection with an earlier law introduced by the French Assembly. Published in the Official Journal, the ban takes effect 1 January 2020 and will prohibit any food product containing titanium dioxide (E 171) from being placed on the market in France until at least 31 December 2020.

On 1 November 2018 the French Assembly published provisions calling for a one-year ban of the food additive titanium dioxide (E 171) in 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. The joint order of the two French ministries – which was first announced in a press release on 17 April 2019 – sets the timeframe for that ban, and therefore implements measures set in the aforementioned law. Furthermore, the press release refers to the "residual uncertainties regarding the safety of the use of this additive," stating that, "no acceptable daily intake could be established for this additive due to a lack of data".

Titanium dioxide (E 171) has been granted an EU-wide authorization under the EU Regulation on food additives 1333/2009/EC under Group II, Part E - Food colors authorized at quantum satis level (Group II) for 50 use types. France implemented this order under article 54 of the EU Regulation No. 178/2002/EC, an EU mechanism which allows member states to adopt urgent national interim protective measures where the EU has not done so. Those measures remain applicable only in the territory of a member state adopting those urgent measures. That means that, for the time being, the additive will remain legal in EU member states other than France, and the French ministries will notify the European Commission and the other EU member states about the adoption of this order. The relevant authorities on the EU level will then meet within ten days to examine the measure. Other EU member states may or may not adopt similar bans. The European Commission could also opt to ban E 171 across the EU. However, these measures cannot be overruled by the Commission regarding its applicability in France.

The order only applies to foodstuffs. Titanium dioxide (E 171) will not be banned in toothpastes, cosmetics and medicines at this time.

Precautionary principle

Suspected of being a carcinogen, this titanium dioxide nanoparticle (TiO2) additive is widely used by agri-food manufacturers. The French government has decided to suspend its use in foodstuffs as a precaution. This decision follows the publication of an opinion by the French National Agency for Food Safety, Environment and Labor (ANSES) that raised concerns about the safety of this substance, which is used mainly as colorant in foodstuffs. In this opinion, which was issued on 15 April 2019, ANSES analyzed 25 new studies on the toxicity of titanium dioxide when ingested orally. Further emphasizing "the lack of scientific data," it concluded that these studies were not sufficient to "confirm or deny the potential" carcinogenic effects of titanium dioxide (E171) when used as food additive.

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All manufacturers or importers of food products containing titanium dioxide (E 171) are advised to take immediate measures to eliminate those products from the French market as of 1 January 2020. Although the ban is currently temporary (one year), French authorities can extend it at the end of this period for an additional year. All food products containing this food additive can be re-introduced once they comply with this order.

Upon the conclusion of the mandatory meetings with the relevant authorities at the EU level, a decision will be reached on whether or not a similar ban will be imposed throughout the EU. If the EU decides to continue to allow the additive in food products, individual member states may also decide whether to follow France or to continue to allow the additive in food products in their countries.

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