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  • May 23, 2023
  • CEH

Public Health Groups Call on FDA to Revoke Approval of Titanium Dioxide in Food

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A coalition of five prominent public health advocacy organizations, including the Environmental Working Group (EWG), Environmental Defense Fund, Center for Science in the Public Interest, Center for Food Safety, and Center for Environmental Health, has submitted a petition urging the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to cancel its approval of the color additive titanium dioxide in food products.

The petition highlights concerns over the accumulation of titanium dioxide nanoparticles in the body, which could potentially harm the immune and nervous systems, particularly in children who consume foods containing this additive. The FDA's approval of titanium dioxide dates back to 1966, with the last safety review conducted in 1973. However, recent scientific evidence suggests that the nanoparticles of titanium dioxide can indeed accumulate in the body, contradicting the previous belief that it does not.

The petition references the European Food Safety Authority's reevaluation, which led to the banning of synthetic titanium dioxide in Europe due to concerns about its potential toxic effects on the immune system and the brain.

Tom Neltner, senior director of safer chemicals for the Environmental Defense Fund, expresses disappointment with the FDA's lack of a formal and transparent reassessment of the evidence, despite the EU's actions. The organizations argue that the FDA should take immediate action to protect consumers by revoking the approval of titanium dioxide as a color additive in food.

While the FDA's response is awaited, some state lawmakers are taking matters into their own hands. In California, Assemblymembers Jesse Gabriel and Buffy Wicks have introduced a bill to ban titanium dioxide and four other food chemicals in food sold within the state. The organizations behind the petition believe that all consumers deserve similar protections across the country.

The petition urges the FDA to fulfill its regulatory responsibilities promptly and meet the statutory deadline of 180 days for making a decision on the matter. The groups emphasize that the FDA should prioritize consumer safety and act promptly, rather than waiting for formal petitions to drive action.

To support their claims, the coalition of organizations refers to the Dirty Dozen Guide to Food Chemicals and Food Additives State of the Science report by the EWG, which provides comprehensive information on titanium dioxide and other concerning food chemicals.

Expert opinions further strengthen the case against titanium dioxide. Sue Chiang, food program director at the Center for Environmental Health, questions the need for a DNA-damaging chemical like titanium dioxide in food, given its purely cosmetic function. Jaydee Hanson, policy director at the Center for Food Safety, highlights European nations and companies recognizing the shift to nanoscale processing of titanium dioxide and removing it from their products. The Center for Food Safety urges the FDA to mandate similar actions from companies selling food products in the United States.

As the debate unfolds, the public health organizations remain steadfast in their mission to ensure the safety of food additives and protect consumers from potentially harmful substances.



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