Titanium dioxide has been used for many years as a food colourant. After a six-month phasing-out period, the total ban on the use of titanium dioxide in foods applies in the EU member states and Northern Ireland as of 7️ August 2022. Since supplements are considered food products, the prohibition also impacts the supplement industry.
What is titanium dioxide?
Titanium dioxide (E171) is a powder used as an additive in food, medicines and nutritional supplements. It can also be found in cosmetics, pet food as well as paints.
The additive scatters light very well and, therefore, boosts white opacity. In other words, it makes white things look whiter and brighter. It can also prevent UV light degradation in materials which helps other colours look more vivid.
Its function is to make candy, chewing gum, and other foods more vibrant in colour, brighter and thus more attractive to consumers.
Why did the EU ban titanium dioxide?
The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) is responsible for periodically re-evaluating food additives that have been approved for use in the past. In 2021, it reviewed scientific studies about titanium dioxide and concluded that the substance could no longer be considered safe when used as a food additive.
The reason? It could not rule out genotoxicity concerns. Genotoxicity refers to the ability of a chemical substance to damage DNA, which may lead to cancer. Although low levels of titanium dioxide particles are absorbed after consumption, they can accumulate in the body. It means the particles build up as consumers eat more foods with E171.
Consequently, the EFSA did not have enough data to calculate a safe level of daily intake of titanium dioxide. The European Commission proposed to ban the use of this additive.
Since the European Commission wants to avoid shortages of medicines, titanium dioxide can provisionally be used in medicinal products. It will review the necessity to use E171 as a colour in such products within three years.
What does the titanium dioxide ban mean for the supplement industry?
Supplements containing titanium dioxide produced before 7 August can remain on the EU market until their expiry date. From now on, only reformulated products can be made and imported.
Titanium dioxide has been used for its ability to provide a white, uniform appearance. It was often used to coat tablets and capsules and found most frequently in vitamins and minerals.
Coloured capsules can be made without titanium dioxide in film coatings with a new formula. However, the process is more complex and expensive. A more affordable alternative for private label owners is transparent capsules, where customers can see the contents.
As a supplement manufacturer, we offer titanium dioxide-free product formulations and transparent capsules. Contact us so we can tailor supplements to your business while respecting the EU’s Regulation.