Titanium dioxide is widely used in industry as a whitener, notably for paint, and in the food sector, where it is labeled E171 and goes into products from chocolate to chewing gum.
France had ordered a review of the substance in 2017 after a study found health effects in animals that consumed it.
France’s National Institute for Agricultural Research (INRA) and partners in a study of oral exposure to titanium dioxide had shown that E171 crosses the intestine wall in animals to reach other parts of the body.
Asked to do a wider review into the ingredient, health and safety agency ANSES found there was not enough evidence to prove it was safe for humans, the French economy and environment ministries said in a joint statement on Wednesday.
“ANSES stresses in its opinion that the evaluation of the risks related to the use of this additive still suffers from a lack of data that the marketers and producers of this additive should have provided,” they said.
“In particular, no acceptable daily intake could be established for this additive due to lack of data.”
E171 is authorized at European Union level and the French government said it would notify the European Commission and other member states of its decision.