Titanium dioxide (also known as E171) has been a staple food additive for decades, primarily used to impart a vibrant white color to various foods, ranging from baked goods and sandwich spreads (think mayo) to soups, sauces, and salad dressings. However, recent developments have led to its banning as a food additive by the European Commission, a decision originating from concerns raised by the EFSA (via the European Commission).
While not definitively concluding that E171 poses a confirmed health risk, the EFSA did not rule out the possibility of adverse effects, particularly the potential for genotoxicity, meaning that titanium dioxide might have the capacity to cause DNA damage, raising alarm bells for health authorities in the European Union (EU). One of the key factors contributing to these concerns is the accumulation of titanium dioxide particles in the body following oral ingestion despite their generally low absorption, seeing that there are doubts regarding their long-term effects on animals, consumers, and the environment (via the EFSA). The EU, guided by the precautionary principle, decided to err on the side of caution and banned its use as a food additive in light of the uncertain safety profile.
In contrast, E171 remains a widely used food coloring agent in the United States. In fact, according to New Atlas, it seems to be present in over 11,000 food and beverage products nationwide, as the FDA continues to allow the use of titanium dioxide in food products, provided that it does not exceed 1% by weight of the food (per the FDA).