Europe just banned a common food dye over DNA damage concerns

The European Union has banned the use of a common food additive commonly used to produce white colors. The decision follows years of contention over whether titanium dioxide represents a health risk when used as a food additive. Though officials still have not concluded whether titanium dioxide is genotoxic when used in food, the "evidence along with all of the uncertainties" fueled the decision to ban its use.

Titanium dioxide is used in a huge number of consumer products for reasons ranging from drugs to help prevent UV degradation to candies and pastries as a white colorant. A number of past studies have investigated whether the compound is safe to use as a food additive; the results have been mixed.

Earlier this year, the European Food Safety Authority weighed in on the matter with a new study that was unable to determine a maximum limit for titanium dioxide as a food additive. Though the EFSA didn't declare titanium dioxide (also known as E171) genotoxic, research has raised concerns over this potential, meaning that ultimately a safety profile for its use can't be established at this time.

Based on these findings, the European Commission proposed a ban on the use of the compound as a food additive. The Member States moved in favor of the proposal and soon a draft regulation will move forward, leaving a couple of months for a possible objection to the decision. Assuming an objection isn't made, the ban will go into effect at the start of 2022.

This decision may prompt similar steps in other nations going forward. Titanium dioxide is FDA approved for use in many products, including cosmetics, drugs, and food sold in the US. At this time, the FDA still considers titanium dioxide generally safe for use as a color additive for food if it doesn't exceeded 1-percent of the food's total weight.