A little background is necessary before diving deep into this piece: I’m a food scientist by trade. Having graduated from one of the top food science schools in the world (UC Davis), I’ve learned the inner workings of the food industry, such as the legal process and toxicological research needed to get ingredients and additives approved for food use.
So when I write an article saying that the FDA needs to ban one of the most popular food additives, it’s because something terrible has come out regarding that particular additive. Which is exactly what’s happened today.
A new study published by Nature found that typical levels of titanium dioxide in food caused precancerous lesions in FORTY PERCENT of rats used in the study. Titanium dioxide is an approved food additive used to brighten white colors in products like alfredo sauce, powdered donuts, hard candies, medicinal pills, and icing. In the study, it was found to disrupt normal intestinal immune system regulation, which leads to the formation of precancerous lesions in the colon. Basically, that means that titanium dioxide ingestion, in acceptable FDA ingestion levels, can cause colon cancer.
If you’re wondering what acceptable levels are, the study focused on the oral ingestion of titanium dioxide at 10 mg/kg body weight (or roughly 10 parts per million). The FDA allows titanium dioxide to be in food at about 1% of the food weight, and previous studies have shown serious toxicological symptoms at as low as 50 parts per million. The dose in the study was clearly much lower than that of toxic levels or of acceptable usage levels in foods. Simply put, the study was conducted at approximately the levesl that this compound would be seen in your food.
While the study itself didn’t actually use food as the vehicle of oral ingestion (using water containing the titanium dioxide instead), this was still food-grade titanium dioxide being consumed orally and evaluated for carcinogenic risk. It was the same titanium dioxide that we consume, albeit at a slightly higher concentration than what would be in normal food since it was added into water. Nonetheless, the additive was shown to produce precancerous lesions in 40% of the rats studied, which is a significantly high amount of cancer development for a study.
Photo: Environmental Leader
Titanium dioxide has already been found to be a carcinogen when inhaled, so this study just adds on to the risk of using titanium dioxide in foods. It’s also prompted France to order a review of the safety of titanium dioxide shortly after the article was published, according to Reuters. That alone should get the FDA thinking on possibly re-evaluating the safety of titanium dioxide as an additive as well.
Potential carcinogens are something of mass concern, and a toxicological risk to the general public, especially when it comes to the widely-used titanium dioxide. Sadly, this study wasn’t the only one to come out recently highlighting the toxic dangers of it.
A few days earlier, NanoImpact published an article that found that titanium dioxide also hindered nutrient absorption in the small intestine. In a similar way to the additive disrupting intestinal immune function, titanium dioxide affects nutrient absorption by decreasing the amount of iron, zinc, and fatty acids that the body absorbs from food.
Not only does titanium dioxide now pose a serious carcinogenic toxicity, but it also poses a serious nutritional toxicity. These studies make it clear that titanium dioxide is something that needs to get OUT of our food, ASAP. At the very least, the FDA needs to reevaluate the safety of titanium dioxide following this new research.
For now, if you see titanium dioxide on a food product, I would highly recommend avoiding it for the near future until the FDA sorts this out (if the FDA chooses to, that is). If you’re a food company that’s using titanium dioxide, I would remove it from your products to ensure that carcinogens are removed from your food and consumers feel safe about eating your food products.
The more you know about what’s in your food, the safer you can be when eating it. And right now, the safest bet is to avoid titanium dioxide altogether — and for the FDA to ban it once and for all.