A consumer is suing candy maker Mars, claiming that Skittles contains a “known toxin” that makes rainbow candy “unfit for human consumption.”
In a class action lawsuit filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California on Thursday, San Leandro resident attorney Jenile Thames said Skittles were unsafe for consumers because they contained “elevation levels” of titanium dioxide.
Mars Inc. uses titanium dioxide to produce Skittles’ well-known range of artificial colors. In 2016, the candy manufacturer publicly shared its intention to remove titanium dioxide from its products in the coming years, the Thursday complaint noted ̵[ads1]1; but titanium dioxide is still used in products like Skittles today.
In a statement sent by Mars to TODAY and several other news channels, the company said: “Although we do not comment on ongoing lawsuits, our use of titanium dioxide complies with FDA regulations.”
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USA TODAY contacted Mars for further comments on Saturday.
According to the FDA’s Code of Federal Regulations, “The dye additive titanium dioxide can be safely used to color foods in general,” but there are several restrictions – such as the amount of titanium dioxide that does not exceed 1% of the weight of the food.
While regulated use of titanium dioxide in food is still legal in the United States, it has been banned in some other countries, including throughout Europe. In May 2021, the European Food Safety Authority announced that titanium dioxide “can no longer be considered safe as an additive” – for example, notes the importance of genotoxicity concerns.
Genotoxicity is the ability of chemicals to damage genetic information such as DNA. “After oral administration, the absorption of titanium dioxide particles is low, but they can accumulate in the body,” said Maged Younes, head of EFSA’s expert panel on food additives and flavorings, in a statement at the time.
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In Thursday’s complaint, Thames’ lawyers claimed that in addition to the continued use of titanium dioxide in products such as Skittles, Mars did not adequately warn consumers about these health risks.
“Based on the defendant’s omissions, a reasonable consumer will expect that the product can be safely bought and consumed as it is marketed and sold,” the complaint states. “However, the products are not safe and pose a significant health risk to unsuspecting consumers. However, neither before nor at the time of purchase do defendant consumers who (Thames) warn that the products are unsafe for consumers, contain increased levels of titanium dioxide, and should otherwise be contacted with caution . “
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Thursday’s complaint also pointed to several Mars competitors who, according to the suit, do not use titanium dioxide to color their products – such as Sour Patch Kids and Nerds. In addition, Thames’ lawyers noted that Mars has other confectionery products, such as M & Ms, “which are not dependent on” titanium dioxide.
The Thames is seeking compensation, to be later determined in court, for fraud and several violations of California’s consumer protection laws.