The United Kingdom will not follow the European Union in banning titanium dioxide as a food additive.
The UK’s Food Standards Agency (FSA) said after reviewing the evidence, no safety concerns have been identified, which means there will not be a change to regulation in England and Wales. Food Standards Scotland (FSS) also reached the same conclusion.
European action was based on an assessment by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) in May 2021 which raised potential concerns over accumulation of titanium dioxide particles in the body and possible genotoxicity. Genotoxicity is the ability for a substance to damage DNA, which may lead to cancer.
In early 2022, the European Commission adopted a ban on the use of titanium dioxide as a food additive after member state backing in late 2021. Because of a six month transition period, it will apply beginning Aug. 7 this year. The additive is widely used to give a white color in foods such as cakes and pastries, confectionery or food supplements.
The EU’s decision will also apply in Northern Ireland because of the Northern Ireland Protocol.
Stella Kyriakides, in charge of EU health and food safety, previously said the safety of food and consumer health was non-negotiable.
“This is why we ensure strict and continuous scrutiny of the highest safety standards for consumers. A cornerstone of this work is to make sure that only safe substances, backed by sound scientific evidence, reach our plates,” she said.
The FSA’s scientific advisory committees reviewed the EFSA opinion and found that the evidence did not support the conclusions made. In the United States, the additive may be used under certain conditions set by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
The FSA and FSS are doing a risk assessment on the substance that should be ready for early 2023.
The Committee on the Toxicity of Chemicals in Food, Consumer Products and the Environment (COT) and the Committee on the Mutagenicity of Chemicals in Food, Consumer Products and the Environment (COM) were asked whether they agreed with EFSA.
The COM questioned the quality of the dataset and some of the studies used by the EFSA panel to come to its position. Experts said the evidence did not allow definitive conclusions to be drawn on genotoxicity.
The committee said the wording of EFSA’s conclusion was “not helpful” from a risk communication perspective and the findings may create unnecessary concern for the public.
The COT found there appeared to be a lack of internal consistency and objective weighing of all the evidence and had concerns over the use of data from laboratories not proficient in genotoxicity studies.
(To sign up for a free subscription to Food Safety News, click here.)