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France bans titanium dioxide from 2020

Ban will be notified to European Commission with call for EU to follow France’s lead

France is to ban the food additive titanium dioxide (E 171) from January 1, 2020, French Economics and Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire announced on April 17.

The announcement was expected since the French Agency for Food, Environmental and Occupational Health & Safety (ANSES) published an opinion on April 15 that gave Le Maire the legal weight needed to underpin the ban under EU law. 

ANSES found that more data was needed to confirm or reject the findings of four studies linking the additive to cancer, including one from the French national agronomic research institute (INRA).

The April 17 statement from the Economics and Finance Ministery noted the agency’s conclusion that the risks linked to the additive’s use suffer from a lack of data that companies placing titanium dioxide on the market should have provided.

The statement underlined that the lack of data meant that neither ANSES nor the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) had been able to set an acceptable daily intake (ADI) limit for the additive – this is the amount that can be consumed every day over a lifetime without ill effect.

It flagged up measures that France had already taken to encourage food producers to switch to other additives – E 171 is used mainly as a white colouring in sweets, such as chewing gum, and cake decorations.

France has also been checking that manufacturers comply with the EU’s food information to consumers regulation (FIC – 1169/2011) by labelling nano forms of E 171 used in foods with the word ‘NANO’ in the list of ingredients.

Commission hesitant

The April 17 statement noted that since titanium dioxide was authorised at EU level, the ministry will notify the ban to the European Commission and other member states as soon as the decree had been signed into law.

They would then have to hold a meeting to consider the notification within 10 days.

But the Commission is reluctant to roll out the ban EU wide.  When IEG Policy asked whether the Commisison was considering introducing an EU ban following the ANSES opinion, a spokesperson told us: “The Commission takes note of the opinion of the French food safety agency ANSES on the use of Titanium dioxide as a food additive.”

However, the spokesperson pointed to EFSA’s July 2018 opinion that upheld its previous 2016 opinion despite considering the four studies linking the additive to cancer and stressed: “EFSA has assessed titanium dioxide as a food additive and concluded it does not pose a safety concern.”

The spokesperson nevertheless underlined: “The protection of the health of EU consumers is and will remain the Commission’s first objective.”

In February 2018 France already asked the Commission to suspend EU authorisation of the additive, while EFSA carried out a thorough re-evaluation, in the light of the four studies and a classification as a potential carcinogen by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC).

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