Opinion of BuRO on possible health effects of the food additive titanium dioxide (E171)

The Office for Risk Assessment & Research (BuRO) advises the Minister for Medical Care and Sport to consult with food producers to ensure that consumers are less exposed to E171 and/or titanium dioxide. In addition, BuRO recommends investigating whether products such as medicines contribute to the intake of titanium dioxide in humans, especially if they have an increased permeability of the intestine. Finally, BuRO recommends that current animal research into E171 be adjusted and that research into the contribution of E171 to the development of colorectal cancer in humans be supported.

Possible relationship with colorectal cancer

The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) and the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) have concluded that titanium dioxide is a carcinogen by inhalation. For some years now, scientific literature has shown that titanium dioxide may also play a role in the development of colorectal cancer.

During a workshop, BuRO brought researchers from different parts of the world into contact with risk assessors from BuRO and other European member states. They discussed recent scientific findings that may show a relationship between colorectal cancer and E171 or titanium dioxide, also in quantities of this substance with which the consumer may come into daily contact.

Reason for opinion

BuRO drew up this opinion on its own initiative in order to assess the risks to the health of the Dutch consumer with regard to the intake of E171 or titanium dioxide.

What is titanium dioxide?

Titanium dioxide is a white dye that is used in many applications, such as chewing gum, pudding and toothpaste. In food it is permitted as a food additive E171 without restrictions (quantum satis). E171 has no nutritional value.