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J Agric Food Chem. 2014 Jul 9;62(27):6285-93. doi: 10.1021/jf5011885. Epub 2014 Jun 30.

Characterization of titanium dioxide nanoparticles in food products: analytical methods to define nanoparticles.

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RIKILT Wageningen UR, Akkermaalsbos 2, 6708 WB Wageningen, The Netherlands.


Titanium dioxide (TiO2) is a common food additive used to enhance the white color, brightness, and sometimes flavor of a variety of food products. In this study 7 food grade TiO2 materials (E171), 24 food products, and 3 personal care products were investigated for their TiO2 content and the number-based size distribution of TiO2 particles present in these products. Three principally different methods have been used to determine the number-based size distribution of TiO2 particles: electron microscopy, asymmetric flow field-flow fractionation combined with inductively coupled mass spectrometry, and single-particle inductively coupled mass spectrometry. The results show that all E171 materials have similar size distributions with primary particle sizes in the range of 60-300 nm. Depending on the analytical method used, 10-15% of the particles in these materials had sizes below 100 nm. In 24 of the 27 foods and personal care products detectable amounts of titanium were found ranging from 0.02 to 9.0 mg TiO2/g product. The number-based size distributions for TiO2 particles in the food and personal care products showed that 5-10% of the particles in these products had sizes below 100 nm, comparable to that found in the E171 materials. Comparable size distributions were found using the three principally different analytical methods. Although the applied methods are considered state of the art, they showed practical size limits for TiO2 particles in the range of 20-50 nm, which may introduce a significant bias in the size distribution because particles <20 nm are excluded. This shows the inability of current state of the art methods to support the European Union recommendation for the definition of nanomaterials.

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