The use of Titanium Dioxide for tablet coatings

Evaluations of titanium dioxide by JECFA, and EFSA have each concluded that there are no safety concerns associated with the use of titanium dioxide as a food additive …


Titanium dioxide is a naturally occurring element and one of the most produced substances in the world today. Both the JECFA (Joint Expert Committee on Food Additives of the Food and Agriculture Organization) and EFSA (European Food Safety Authority) evaluations of titanium dioxide have concluded that there is no absorption or tissue storage of titanium dioxide. See EFSA conclusions. 

Titanium dioxide is widely used in the food industry and food products such as sour cream, cottage cheese  ice cream and other dairy products often contain the pigment to attain that familiar bright-white coloration.

Titanium dioxide as a pigment in food products is classified as a manufacturing (or processing) aid and not as a food ingredient and therefore may be exempt from the requirement of being listed the label of contents.

Evaluations of titanium dioxide by JECFA, and EFSA have each concluded that there are no safety concerns associated with the use of titanium dioxide as a food additive at levels ranging up to 3%. This means that a 100g serving of a dairy product could contain up to 3g (3000mg) of titanium dioxide.

Lamberts Products

The titanium dioxide used in Lamberts products is an approved material for use in food products and in pharmaceuticals. It is regarded as an inert, non-toxic substance by the relevant regulatory bodies as it is not absorbed across the gut wall.

The food approved titanium dioxide we use as a tablet coating is a white opaque material and its particle size is relatively huge (compared to nano-particles, see note below) and is therefore not absorbed from the digestive system in to the body.

We use this titanium dioxide as a tablet coating to protect the delicate nutrients in our tablets from UV light damage, and the amount used is relatively tiny (typically 5-7mg per tablet) compared to the amount that can be added to foods. The titanium dioxide layer also serves as a white base coat on the tablet which allows us to use to give some tablets a distinctive colour, using only natural pigments, such as chlorophyll. These colours are required as part of our quality assurance standards to minimise the remote risk of tablet batches becoming mixed and to help our customers identify which tablets they are taking.

The use of titanium dioxide as a coating adds extra cost to our manufacturing process and we would not choose to incur this extra cost unless we felt that the coating was both beneficial and absolutely safe.

Why are there any safety concerns about titanium dioxide?

There has been some concern over the use of titanium dioxide in cosmetics and as a sunscreen in sun protection creams, but this concern is limited to a new form of this mineral called nano-particles (or ultrafine particles) which are defined as being less than 0.1 microns (or 100 nanometres) in size. When titanium dioxide particles are milled down to this size they become colourless (yet still block the suns rays) and are therefore popular ingredients in modern sunscreens, moisturisers, foundations, make up and many day to day cosmetics products. It is these nano-particles that are believed to be capable of crossing the skin barrier, although there is no definite evidence that this is resulting in any health concerns.

It is important to note that it is the particle size that is the critical factor here and similar concerns have been raised about other mineral compounds, such as zinc oxide, when they are milled down to nano-particle size.

No safety concerns have been raised in the scientific community about the use of normal titanium dioxide in food, pharmaceuticals and supplements. However, certain supplement companies, who don’t use titanium dioxide, are deliberately misinforming consumers about the safety status of this safe material by muddling in the preliminary data on nano-particle titanium dioxide.

Autor: Lamberts Española.