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What is E171 and why is it in my food?

Remember the last time you were about to eat from a packet of sweets? You know, that time when you read the packet before tucking into your bag dried fruits instead? When you did, you probably have seen a number which read E171, and you probably won’t have known what it meant (clue: it’s not a stretch of road).

E171 is the European technical name for a food colourant and the “E” means it is allowed to be used as a food additive in Europe. E171 is a white additive made of titanium dioxide, designed to give food a certain colour. 

What foods contain E171?

E171 is used in a wide variety of foods as white food colouring. Overall it can be found in any transformed food that needs to be made whiter or a consistent color for example gum. Beyond the colour of the product, E171 can also help achieve a certain opacity or surface texture. Put simply, if you want your food to look uniformly good, you’re going to need E171. 

Why is it in my food?

Because consumers are picky! People want consistent products with very specific colours and that’s exactly what E171 enables. This means that the food will meet certain standards of quality and appearance to look just the way you want it to.

Titanium dioxide, which is actually only a refined and purified form of a naturally-occurring mineral substance, has been used safely in food for decades now. Today, it is the world’s main pigment for conveying food whiteness, opacity and brightness. 

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