Titanium dioxide, soon to be banned in France?

Brune Poirson, Secretary of State to the Minister of State, Minister for Ecological and Solidarity Transition, announced on Friday 18 May the government's wish to suspend before the end of 2018 the use of titanium dioxide in prepared dishes and confectionery sold in France. A substance whose health risks remain poorly known. However, this nanoparticle is still used in the manufacture of certain chewing gum, biscuits, sweets and chocolates. It is also used as an opacifier for ice cream and as a texturizer for yoghurts. It is also found outside the food industry, in cosmetics or textiles ...
Present in food in nanoparticulate form through the name E171, titanium dioxide is commonly used as a pigment to give a bright and smooth white appearance to pastries or confectionery or to opacify yoghurts or ice cream, chocolate bars ...
Food, cosmetics, medicine... As the magazine pointed out... What to Choose in February in a major survey on nanoparticlesThese compounds with a size of less than 100 nanometres are ubiquitous in our daily lives, despite doubts about their safety. Indeed, their small size favours their penetration into the body and the crossing of biological barriers (from the lungs and intestines to the blood, from the blood to the brain). Their large surface area of contact with the outside world and the reactivity that characterizes them reinforces this toxic potential.
In 2006, the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) classified titanium dioxide as "potentially carcinogenic". It was not until 2017 that the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) decided on a classification of the substance as a category 2 carcinogen and the French National Institute for Agricultural Research (INRA) published a study on the precursor effects of E171 carcinogenesis. 
As a reminder, the deputies of the Sustainable Development Committee of the National Assembly adopted on March 23rd of this year an amendment concerning titanium dioxide (E171) which stipulates that the importation and placing on the market "free of charge or against payment" of any food containing the additive with whitening and opacifying properties would be suspended as of June 1, until the publication of the ANSES opinion expected in the coming months.
This request follows last year's NARI study showing an altered intestinal immune response and concluded that chronic exposure to E171 promotes the growth of precancerous lesions in rats. The National Agency for Food, Environmental and Occupational Health Safety (Anses) also recalls on its website that a study conducted in 2017 "shows that chronic oral exposure of rats to titanium dioxide (additive E171, partially nanoscale) would be likely to result in precancerous colorectal lesions".
With regard to the harmfulness to humans, while much research is currently being done, the task seems difficult because the mechanism of action of these tiny particles is complex to study. 
Already in 2010 the French Agency for Environmental and Occupational Health Safety (AFSSET) recommended limiting public exposure to products containing titanium dioxide nanoparticles in a report on the risks associated with nanomaterials, invoking the precautionary principle.
In February 2018, the French authorities asked the European Commission to suspend the use of titanium dioxide as a food additive and requested that E171 be re-evaluated as a matter of urgency. The Commission then appealed to the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA), which

will issue a new notice by the summer of 2018.
Still according to What to choose, Despite these doubts, nanoparticles have found their way into many industrial recipes. More than 400,000 tons of nanomaterials were introduced into various manufactured products in France in 2016 alone. Tests have thus revealed the presence of this dye in the form of nanoparticles in food products of all kinds: cakes, sweets, chewing gum, cappuccino powders, spices and dehydrated soups. But also in cosmetics (toothpaste, sunscreen...). And finally in common medicines, such as Dafalgan (1 g film-coated tablet) or Doliprane (500 mg capsule), Efferalgan, Spasfon, Nurofen, Euphytosis and Ibuprofen, ... which are far from being isolated cases. Because the figures obtained by consulting the database of drugs marketed in France are staggering: more than 4,000 medicines contain the dye E171 !
Some French retailers such as Système U, Auchan, Leclerc, Carrefour have already committed to removing titanium dioxide nanoparticles from their products. Several manufacturers (Mars, Malabar, Fleury Michon, Picard, Carambar and Cie, ...) have voluntarily decided to remove titanium dioxide from their flagship products, in this context of high scientific uncertainty and in view of the superfluous nature of this food additive. Last year, the confectioners had already collectively committed themselves to no longer using titanium dioxide, but in a progressive manner, each one "at their own pace". At Verquin, which produces in Tourcoing (Nord) the HotheadsThis provision has been in force since December 2017: Titanium dioxide has been replaced by less harmful alternatives, such as calcium carbonate or rice starch.
More recently, last February, Lutti, the confectioner from Bondues (Nord), which now relies on natural colourings and low sugar candies, has not used titanium dioxide for three years.
According to Brune Poirson: "It is essential to question the real usefulness of a substance whose only interest would be to make food whiter than white when there are serious doubts about the health risks associated with its ingestion. The government is determined and that is why I wanted to highlight the good practices of the precursor companies which, without delay, have already chosen to withdraw titanium dioxide from their products".
(Source : agro-media.fr, May 24, 2018)

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