In May 2021 the European Food Safety Association (EFSA) announced that food dye additive “titanium dioxide” (aka the “white” nanoparticle food coloring *) is no longer considered safe when used as a food additive. The European Commission (EC) asked EFSA to update its safety assessment of the food additive titanium dioxide (E171). EFSA states: “Taking into account all available scientific studies and data, the Panel [on Food Additives and Flavorings] concluded that titanium dioxide can no longer be considered safe as a food additive**. A critical element in reaching this conclusion is that we could not exclude genotoxicity concerns after consumption of titanium dioxide particles. After oral ingestion, the absorption of titanium dioxide particles is low, however they can accumulate in the body.” (source)
Before and After photos taken by scientists studying the effects on the gut after ingesting the nanoparticle Titanium dioxide “white” food dye/additive as a food coloring.
*From CFL’s book The Food Hacker’s Handbook:
Food Dye’s Tiny Cousin: Titanium Dioxide
This nanoparticle white pigment (officially classified as a food additive as opposed to a food dye) is present in processed foods common on grocery shelves, as well as in fast food and conventional restaurant foods. Frequently unlabeled in U.S. foods, this additive is used as a white pigment food coloring for processed foods such as skim milk, white cheese, yogurt, frosting/frosted foods, icing, candies, snack foods, mayonnaise, salad dressings, powdered sugar, marshmallows, pudding, breakfast toaster pastries, and non-diary coffee creamer, among many others. It is also commonly used in medicines and toothpaste.
Scientists are still determining the health safety and potential health hazards of nanoparticles in food. According to the professional organization American Society of Safety Engineers (the guide has since been removed from their website) ingested nanoparticles can be absorbed through small nodules in intestinal tissue (Peyer’s Plaques) that are part of the immune defense system. If nanoparticles enter the digestive system and proceed into the bloodstream, they can potentially move throughout the body and cause damage. Additionally, the Society concludes that “Nanoparticles may also accumulate in certain organs, disrupt and impair biological, structural and metabolic processes and weaken the immune system.” Animals studies have demonstrated that nanoparticle ingestion changes the structure of the lining of the intestinal walls. Among other potential problems, such structural changes hold the potential for over-absorption of harmful compounds. Additionally, research has indicated there are potential adverse health effects of nanoparticles on respiratory and cardiovascular systems, and studies of manufactured nanoparticles have demonstrated toxic properties. Among other health-related issues researchers are studying the potential link between Titanium Dioxide nanoparticles in food and an increased risk for inflammatory bowel diseases such as Crohn’s disease and colitis. And finally, a recent study funded by the National Science Foundation and published by the American Chemical Society found that nanomaterials in food and drinks can interfere with digestive cells, changing the normal organization and decreasing the number of microvilli (finger-like projections on the cells that help us digest food). What this means essentially is that in humans, if such an effect occurs as food and drinks pass through the gastrointestinal tract, these nanomaterials could lead to poor digestion or diarrhea.
** See scientific findings on titanium dioxide nanoparticle food additive from our blog posts here: