What is Titanium Dioxide, and where is it used? Titanium dioxide (E171) is a food preservative that has gained attention in recent years. It is a white, odourless, and tasteless compound widely used in the food industry for its versatile properties [1-3]. It is a naturally occurring mineral that is extracted from various sources, including rutile and ilmenite ores. It is processed into a fine powder form, which is then used in a wide range of industries, including food and beverages. Its uses extend beyond simply colouring food, thus making it a popular additive.
Food Colouring Agent: Titanium dioxide is primarily used as a food colouring agent to provide a bright white colour to a variety of food products [1-3]. It is particularly common in confectionery, baked goods, dairy products, and sauces. The white colour enhances the visual appeal of these products, making them more attractive to consumers.
Opacifying Agent: Titanium dioxide is also used as an opacifying agent, which means it can make products appear opaque or less transparent . This property is beneficial for certain food and beverage applications where opacity is desired, such as in creamy fillings, icing, and certain beverages.
UV Absorbent: Titanium dioxide has the ability to absorb ultraviolet (UV) light, making it useful in food products that need protection from light-induced degradation . It is commonly added to products like dairy-based desserts, yoghurt, and beverages to preserve their quality and extend their shelf life.
Purported Health Implications
The safety of titanium dioxide (E171) as a food additive has been extensively evaluated by regulatory authorities around the world. However, there have been some concerns raised regarding its potential health implications. Here are the key points to consider:
Particle Size: The safety of titanium dioxide largely depends on the particle size used in food products . Nanoparticles of titanium dioxide, which are significantly smaller than conventional particles, have raised some concerns. Studies suggest that these nanoparticles might have the potential to penetrate cells and tissues, although the extent of this penetration and its health implications are still being investigated.
Potential Health Implications: Some studies in animals have suggested that high doses of titanium dioxide nanoparticles may lead to inflammation and cellular damage in the lungs and other organs [7-9]. However, it is important to note that these studies often involve exposure to extremely high concentrations that may not reflect real-world scenarios.
Regulatory Approval: Titanium dioxide (E171) is approved for use as a food additive by regulatory bodies such as Food Standards Australia New Zealand, the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA), the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and other relevant authorities worldwide [10-12]. These approvals are based on comprehensive safety assessments that consider the available scientific data. Therefore those who are not allergic, insensitive, or intolerant to titanium dioxide, should not be concerned about its use as a food additive.
Recommendations for Safe Consumption
While regulatory authorities have deemed titanium dioxide (E171) safe for consumption, individuals with specific concerns or sensitivities may choose to limit their intake. Here are some recommendations for consumers:
Read Product Labels: Check food product labels for the presence of titanium dioxide (E171) if you have specific concerns or sensitivities.
Seek Professional Advice: If you have any specific health concerns or allergies, consult with a healthcare professional who can provide personalised guidance.
Balanced Diet: Focus on maintaining a balanced diet that includes a variety of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins. This approach ensures a diverse range of nutrients and minimises reliance on heavily processed foods.
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Barad DL, Chotaliya UJ, Patel NK. A brief review on titanium dioxide. Asian Journal of Pharmaceutical Analysis. 2022;12(3):187-96.
Pandya JK, Dai H, He L. An innovative filtration based Raman mapping technique for the size characterization of anatase titanium dioxide nanoparticles. Talanta. 2021 Mar 1;224:121836.
Dorier M, Béal D, Tisseyre C, Marie-Desvergne C, Dubosson M, Barreau F, Houdeau E, Herlin-Boime N, Rabilloud T, Carriere M. The food additive E171 and titanium dioxide nanoparticles indirectly alter the homeostasis of human intestinal epithelial cells in vitro. Environmental Science: Nano. 2019;6(5):1549-61.
Zhang W, Rhim JW. Titanium dioxide (TiO2) for the manufacture of multifunctional active food packaging films. Food Packaging and Shelf Life. 2022 Mar 1;31:100806.
Skocaj M, Filipic M, Petkovic J, Novak S. Titanium dioxide in our everyday life; is it safe?. Radiology and oncology. 2011 Dec;45(4):227.
Grande F, Tucci P. Titanium dioxide nanoparticles: a risk for human health?. Mini reviews in medicinal chemistry. 2016 Jun 1;16(9):762-9.
Zhang X, Li W, Yang Z. Toxicology of nanosized titanium dioxide: an update. Archives of toxicology. 2015 Dec;89:2207-17.
Moon C, Park HJ, Choi YH, Park EM, Castranova V, Kang JL. Pulmonary inflammation after intraperitoneal administration of ultrafine titanium dioxide (TiO2) at rest or in lungs primed with lipopolysaccharide. Journal of Toxicology and Environmental Health, Part A. 2010 Feb 19;73(5-6):396-409.
Review of titanium dioxide as a food additive [Internet]. www.foodstandards.gov.au. Available from: https://www.foodstandards.gov.au/consumer/foodtech/Pages/Review-of-titanium-dioxide-as-a-food-additive.aspx
EFSA. Titanium dioxide: E171 no longer considered safe when used as a food additive | EFSA [Internet]. www.efsa.europa.eu. 2021. Available from: https://www.efsa.europa.eu/en/news/titanium-dioxide-e171-no-longer-considered-safe-when-used-food-additive
CFR - Code of Federal Regulations Title 21 [Internet]. www.accessdata.fda.gov. Available from: https://www.accessdata.fda.gov/scripts/cdrh/cfdocs/cfcfr/cfrsearch.cfm?fr=73.575
We do our best to source robust information from a number of credible sources. There is, however, a large amount of information on various aspects of nutritional elements along with claims in terms of their contribution to helping in body health which may contradict the above.