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ASA upheld ruling against an advert for toothpaste denigrating titanium dioxide as a cosmetic ingredient.
On 15 November 2023, the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) upheld a ruling against advertisements for a toothpaste with misleading free-from titanium dioxide (TiO2) claims, implying that using titanium dioxide-containing toothpastes was potentially harmful to consumers.
The ASA considered that the information in the adverts would lead consumers to believe TiO2 was widely used in competitor’s toothpastes, and that it was potentially carcinogenic. They further considered consumers would interpret the claims to mean that by using TiO2-containing toothpastes they were likely to be exposed to a carcinogen that was not present in the advertised products.
As part of the body of evidence behind the claims, the advertiser referenced the EFSA Opinion which relates to the use of TiO2 as an additive in food. Therefore, ASA considered that this evidence was not adequate substantiation for the claims under investigation.
The body of evidence also referenced a literature review which had drawn its conclusions from studies that had been conducted on animals and then compared with post-mortem human tissues. The review made no findings on human exposure to TiO2 in toothpaste, or its claimed carcinogenic nature. Therefore, ASA also considered the review was not adequate substantiation for the claims.
Overall, ASA concluded that the claims could not be substantiated and therefore the adverts were misleading. The adverts must not appear again in the form raised in this case.
CTPA is pleased to see the critical scientific analysis made by the ASA on the literature review, supporting the scientifically robust conclusion that the available evidence does not support a claim that titanium dioxide poses a risk to consumers. It is important that consumers are not discouraged from using this important ingredient to protect their oral health along with the other important functions of titanium dioxide in cosmetics, such as sun protection.