Nav: Home

Study suggests French ban on food additive may be premature

September 26, 2019

EAST LANSING, Mich. - Michigan State University and University of Nebraska Medical Center researchers are refuting an earlier French government-funded study that claims titanium dioxide, a common food additive used worldwide, causes digestive inflammation and lesions in rats.

Results of the French study have led leaders of the country to prohibit all food products with the additive from being placed on the market starting January 2020. France's ban could have implications for other countries, including the United States.

Food-grade titanium dioxide, or E171, is a naturally occurring mineral used as a whitener and brightener in foods and medications. A lower-grade version of E171 is also found in cosmetics and sunscreen.

The MSU research, published in Food and Chemical Toxicology, found significant flaws in the French study and more importantly, found no evidence of negative health effects after replicating and correcting testing methods used in the previous research.

One primary flaw was the French scientists didn't test the rats based on how humans usually are exposed to the food additive.

"We designed our study to investigate E171 exposure through food, the most common way people consume the ingredient," said Norbert Kaminski, lead author and director of MSU's Center for Research on Ingredient Safety. "By focusing on real-life exposure, our study provides much needed context and nuance to the food safety conversation."

According to Kaminski and co-investigator Sam Cohen from UNMC, the French researchers administered E171 in the rat's drinking water. Since the additive doesn't dissolve in water, it would be like drinking water with sand in it.

"This type of exposure in humans just isn't relevant because of its insolubility," Kaminski said.

The researchers also mentioned that other studies have tested the substance through inhalation and direct injection, which also are uncommon ways people are exposed to the food additive.

While the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the European Food Safety Authority recognize the ingredient as safe, E171 has come under intense scrutiny by France because of these previous studies.

Another oversight noted by Kaminski and Cohen was that the rats were pretreated with the chemical dimethylhydrazine, or DMH, prior to E171 exposure.

"The problem is there were no experimental control groups in the French study that looked at just the effects of DMH," Kaminski said.

DMH is a potent genotoxicant, which can alter DNA, and is why the lesions and inflammation occurred, according to Kaminski and the research team.

To remove any possibility of experimental bias and offset any criticism related to the MSU and UNMC study - some funding was obtained through industry partners - the research was conducted in a blinded manner over a seven-day and 100-day period. This means that no one on the investigative team knew which rats were exposed to E171 and which tissues came from the subjects until the analysis of all samples was completed.

"It was important that the study was conducted this way and went through a rigorous peer-review process to take away any doubts," Kaminski said.

While much of the research was funded by MSU, it partially was funded by the Grocery Manufacturers Association, the Titanium Dioxide Manufacturers Association and the International Association of Color Manufacturers.

Currently, Kaminski has no plans to study the additive further, yet he did mention other studies are being conducted to continue to address the E171 food safety conversation.
(Note for media: Please include a link to the original paper in online coverage:

Michigan State University has been working to advance the common good in uncommon ways for more than 160 years. One of the top research universities in the world, MSU focuses its vast resources on creating solutions to some of the world's most pressing challenges, while providing life-changing opportunities to a diverse and inclusive academic community through more than 200 programs of study in 17 degree-granting colleges.

Michigan State University

Related Drinking Water Articles:

Natural contaminant threat to drinking water from groundwater
Climate change and urbanisation are set to threaten groundwater drinking water quality, new research from UNSW Sydney shows.
Fresh clean drinking water for all could soon to be a reality in Pakistan
A fresh, clean water supply will be a reality in Pakistan, particularly in South Punjab, following the announcement of an international partnership spearheaded by the Pakistan government, alongside other key stakeholders, and driven by the University of Huddersfield.
Keeping lead out of drinking water when switching disinfectants
Researchers at the McKelvey School of Engineering at Washington University in St.
Solar power with a free side of drinking water
An integrated system seamlessly harnesses sunlight to cogenerate electricity and fresh water.
'Liquid forensics' could lead to safer drinking water
Ping! The popular 1990 film, The Hunt for Red October, helped introduce sonar technology on submarines to pop culture.
Progress in hunt for unknown compounds in drinking water
When we drink a glass of water, we ingest an unknown amount of by-products that are formed in the treatment process.
Arsenic in drinking water may change heart structure
Among young adults, drinking water contaminated with arsenic may lead to structural changes in the heart that raise their risk of heart disease.
Not drinking water associated with consuming more calories from sugary drinks
This study examined how drinking water was associated with the amount of calories children, adolescents and young adults consume from sugar-sweetened beverages, including sodas, fruit drinks and sports drinks.
Not drinking water may boost kids' consumption of sugary beverages
Kids and young adults who drink no water throughout the day may consume twice the amount of calories from sugary drinks than those who drink water, according to Penn State researchers.
Drinking water sucked from the dusty desert air
An inexpensive hydrogel-based material efficiently captures moisture even from low-humidity air and then releases it on demand.
More Drinking Water News and Drinking Water Current Events

Trending Science News

Current Coronavirus (COVID-19) News

Top Science Podcasts

We have hand picked the top science podcasts of 2020.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Teaching For Better Humans 2.0
More than test scores or good grades–what do kids need for the future? This hour, TED speakers explore how to help children grow into better humans, both during and after this time of crisis. Guests include educators Richard Culatta and Liz Kleinrock, psychologist Thomas Curran, and writer Jacqueline Woodson.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#556 The Power of Friendship
It's 2020 and times are tough. Maybe some of us are learning about social distancing the hard way. Maybe we just are all a little anxious. No matter what, we could probably use a friend. But what is a friend, exactly? And why do we need them so much? This week host Bethany Brookshire speaks with Lydia Denworth, author of the new book "Friendship: The Evolution, Biology, and Extraordinary Power of Life's Fundamental Bond". This episode is hosted by Bethany Brookshire, science writer from Science News.
Now Playing: Radiolab

One of the most consistent questions we get at the show is from parents who want to know which episodes are kid-friendly and which aren't. So today, we're releasing a separate feed, Radiolab for Kids. To kick it off, we're rerunning an all-time favorite episode: Space. In the 60's, space exploration was an American obsession. This hour, we chart the path from romance to increasing cynicism. We begin with Ann Druyan, widow of Carl Sagan, with a story about the Voyager expedition, true love, and a golden record that travels through space. And astrophysicist Neil de Grasse Tyson explains the Coepernican Principle, and just how insignificant we are. Support Radiolab today at