The Candy Chemical (E171) Ban Must Prevail To Protect Consumers

Pam Barker | Director of TLB Europe Reloaded Project

The article below by Corporate Europe Observatory was published on September 25, 2019. The French decision to ban food colourant E171 was made on April 17. To date, nothing has been reported on what the EU’s final verdict on this food additive will be. But suffice it to say, why should citizens in one country not be protected of their own volition, instead being dependent on the lobbying industry’s attempts to pressure the EU’s ruling Great and Good, who certainly don’t have our interests at heart. Yet another argument for getting out of the Big State, which was precisely designed to further corporate interests through the free movement of goods.

Readers may also be interested in this short piece from The Local in April of this year, which is republished here in its entirety:

France will ban the use of a widely used food additive from 2020, its economy and environment ministries said Wednesday, after studies pointed to potential health risks for consumers.
The two ministries said following advice from health officials, a “decree suspending the sale of food products” containing titanium dioxide from January 1st had been signed and would be published shortly.
The additive, used mainly as a whitening and brightening agent in candies, chewing gum, white sauces and cake icing, is known as the artificial colour E171 on food labels.
It is also used in sunscreens because of the molecule’s ability to reflect ultra-violet rays.
But critics say it offers no nutritional value nor extended shelf life, and could pose a risk to humans since the minuscule particles may be able to pass through protective walls of organs such as the liver, lungs or intestines.
France last year said it wished to suspend the sale and production of food products containing titanium dioxide.
In 2017 it ordered an inquiry after scientists reported that the additive could cause precancerous lesions in rats.
Researchers from France and Luxembourg found a 40 percent increase in precancerous growths in lab rats who had the molecule added to their drinking water for 100 days.
The French agency for food, environmental and occupational health Anses this week released an analysis of 25 new studies on E171’s toxicity, concluding there was a “lack of scientific data” over its harmfulness and recommending the use of “known alternatives”.
Many French candy makers have already stopped using the food colourant ahead of expected restrictions on its use.
This piece from Politico.eu explains how the application of the single market rule runs into trouble when one country decides to ban something:
Rather than toe the EU’s line, Paris imposed its own restrictions on E171 starting next year that are tougher than those that apply in the rest of the bloc. That’s prompted warnings that the regulatory divergence will undermine one of the foundations of the EU, the single market, by making it impossible to sell the same products in all countries.
The Politico piece also explains how France is far more cautious when it comes to environmental toxins:

France stands alone

It’s part of a broader trend, with Paris adopting more restrictive rules than the rest of the EU on products ranging from the weedkiller glyphosate to bisphenol A — a plastic softener essential in the production of many consumer goods.

France has long been much more activist on environmental issues than other EU countries. Its fervent movement opposed to genetically modified foods in recent years has broadened into a politically powerful effort to curtail chemicals — creating a force that President Emmanuel Macron can’t ignore.

A Eurobarometer poll on chemical safety released in 2017 found that most EU citizens believe products to be broadly safe. In France, only 26 percent of respondents think that products containing chemicals are safe — the lowest in the EU.

That suspicion of regulations and governments is seen in other areas as well. France is Europe’s most vaccine-skeptic country, and has seen recent anti-government protests in the form of the Yellow Jacket movement.

French exceptionalism also comes through clearly when it comes to titanium dioxide.

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The candy chemical ban must prevail

CORPORATE EUROPE OBSERVATORY

In April, the French Government announced its plans to ban the titanium dioxide food additive E171.

Check the ingredients on your child’s sweets (candy) or your pralines, and you may well find E171 listed as a colourant. Whether the French ban can go ahead now hinges on a green light from the EU. It would be a scandal if the ongoing food industry lobbying derails this candy chemical ban aimed at protecting human health.

One reason that sees E171 in the cross-hairs of the French regulators is its size: it is usually so small that it can likely cross internal barriers within the human body. There are many unanswered questions around the health impact of such nanoparticles, to the point that no exposure limit could be calculated for this additive by the European Food Safety Agency (EFSA), whose panel of experts at the time included 57 per cent of members in a conflict of interest situation. It is therefore more than reasonable to err on the side of caution.

In the case of E171, the French Government opted for a precautionary ban as its health and safety agency recommends moving away from products containing nano materials, and because it does not see sufficient evidence that titanium dioxide is a safe food additive.

Now, three months before France’s ban is supposed to come into force, EU member states and the European Commission are reviewing the French plan and could reject it, permit it in France, or even adopt it as an EU-wide measure. A decision could be made this week.

But ever since the French Government announced the E171 ban, industry lobbies have been up in arms. The chemicals, food and drink, and supplements industries have been lobbying the Commission to demand the ban on E171 be struck down. A similar picture is emerging in member states such as the UK and Germany, as industry associations have started to coordinate their messaging and lobbying.

At the heart of this matter is whether EU single market rules permit the French Government to ban products it deems risky or unsafe. France decided to ban E171 on precautionary grounds, but single market rules, particularly around the free movement of goods, are too often used to restrain the policy space of EU member state governments to take such decisions, even if they are being made to protect public health or the environment.

In fact, the E171 titanium dioxide industry is already fully mobilised on the lobbying front, as a second, separate decision on the substance is underway at the EU level: the pending decision on how to classify the chemical in non-food products such as sunscreen and paints will determine the labelling and health warnings on such items.

The World Health Organisation’s renowned International Agency for Research on Cancer has already declared titanium dioxide a “possible carcinogen for humans” and the French Government is again taking the lead to push for titanium dioxide to be classified accordingly, with NGOs supporting its demand that the classification be as comprehensive as possible. Meanwhile, industry has thrown everything but the kitchen sink at this decision-making process, including a €14 million science programme to “resolve the many issues that present themselves in the current, unique situation”, and lobbying campaigns in Brussels and national capitals opposing the classification.

Here too, ‘free trade’ arguments are being used to fight health and environmental concerns around titanium dioxide. The European Commission’s so-called Better Regulation agenda, a legislative assessment programme, works in favour of corporate lobbyists and gives industry an added argument to oppose regulations it doesn’t like. The related ‘one-in-one-out’ approach to new regulations announced by new Commission President Ursula von der Leyen is set to further narrow the policy space for public-interest regulation at the EU level.

Member states must be able to ban products in their territory if they see a risk for the health of their population or for the environment. And collectively, EU governments must remember that their primary role is to protect citizens and the public interest, not to facilitate corporations to sell a product whatever its harm may be to citizens.

The EU single market must not trump action on health and environment – France’s candy chemical ban must prevail.

You can take action to support the French ban on E171 here.

This article has also appeared at Euractiv.Fr in French.

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Original article

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