Sweet nanoparticules

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A French study expresses concern about a food additive, found in certain sweets, that may cause cancer. 


The white dye known as E171, composed of nanoparticles of titanium dioxide (TiO2), has no purpose other than to give candy and chewing gum their shine. It may also be dangerous: according to a French study, rats that were routinely fed E171 developed colon or rectal cancer. In 2015, the French Agency for Food Safety asked the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) to rank TiO2 in category 1B, which is for substances whose potential to cause cancer in humans by inhalation is “assumed”.

ECHA responded in June 2016 that E171 met the criteria for being “suspected” of having carcinogenic effects by inhalation, which would put it in category 2. There is indeed a lack of proof for ranking TiO2 in category 1B. Meanwhile, a different agency, the European Food Safety Authority, maintains its position that E171 poses no health risk when ingested.


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