A food additive used in everyday Aussie products is under the microscope after the European watchdog found it unsafe.
A food additive commonly used in products including sweets, chewing gum and toothpaste will be reviewed by Australia’s food safety body after the European watchdog found it unsafe.
Titanium dioxide has been an approved food additive in Australia and used in consumer products here and overseas for decades, often used as a whitening agent.
But now Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ) is calling for information on titanium dioxide and its safety when used as a food additive in Australia and New Zealand.
It comes after the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) updated its advice on the naturally occurring compound in May and found carcinogenic effects could not be ruled out.
“EFSA’s expert panel on food additives and flavourings recently concluded that although the evidence for general toxic effects was not conclusive, titanium dioxide can no longer be considered safe as a food additive,” FSANZ said in a statement this month.
“FSANZ, in consultation with our independent scientific advisory groups, is now reviewing the EFSA assessment as well as existing evidence on the safety of titanium dioxide as a food additive.
“This review will consider whether any actions may be required to protect the health and safety of Australian and New Zealand consumers.”
FSANZ is seeking information from interested parties about the particle size of titanium dioxide used in food, as well as information on its safety as a food additive, to help inform its assessment.
Several years ago FSANZ commissioned an expert toxicology to review available scientific literature on any evidence of health risks linked to oral ingestion of titanium dioxide, including in nanoscale form, in food.
That review, published in 2016, found the weight of evidence did not support claims of significant health risks.
EFSA’s expert panel unveiled its decision to deem the additive unsafe after taking into account all available scientific studies and data, the panel’s food additives and flavourings chair, Professor Maged Younes, said in May.
The conclusion came after the panel was unable to rule out concerns that consuming titanium dioxide particles could damage cells, causing mutations which could lead to cancer.
“After oral ingestion, the absorption of titanium dioxide particles is low, however they can accumulate in the body,” Professor Younes said.
He said the assessment was carried out following a rigorous methodology and considering “many thousands” of studies that have become available since EFSA’s previous assessment in 2016. This included new scientific evidence and data on nanoparticles.
FSANZ has called for information to be provided by September 17 as part of its review.