On Thursday 14 July, a lawsuit was filed in a northern California federal court which claims that Skittles contain a 'known toxin' called titanium dioxide, making them 'unfit for human consumption.'
Risk of genotoxicity
The Skittles slogan is 'taste the rainbow.' And it's titanium dioxide, or TiO2, that is used to help create the candy's signature multicoloured hues.
The civil suit was filed against Mars Inc, the confection company that makes Skittles. It claims that people who consume Skittles 'are at heightened risk of a host of health effects for which they were unaware stemming from genotoxicity – the ability of a chemical substance to change DNA,' as reported by The Guardian.
According to Insider, TiO2 is commonly found in paints, plastics, inks, adhesives, and roofing materials. It is also a popular ingredient in mineral sunscreens.
However, safety regulators have pointed out that the nanoparticles that make TiO2 so effective as a sunscreen are indigestible by humans. Researchers have discovered that consuming the toxin has caused a range of health issues, including alterations to DNA, chromosomal damage, inflammation, and cell necrosis.
According to the Center for Food Safety, TiO2 can also cause pathological lesions of the liver, spleen, kidneys, and brain, along with lung tumours, and kidney dysfunction.
Failed to phase out use of the toxin
Mars committed to phase out the use of TiO2 back in 2016, as part of a move to eliminate harmful and potentially poisonous nanoparticles from their products, according to the Center for Food Safety.
France banned TiO2 in food products in 2020. In 2021, the European Food Safety Authority announced that 'titanium dioxide can no longer be considered safe as a food additive' and a similar policy is expected to go into effect in August 2022. According to the lawsuit, Mars said it would comply with France's law.
However, the suit alleges that six years later Mars continues to sell candies in the US that contain TiO2 as an additive and is 'failing to inform consumers of the implications of consuming the toxin.' The chemical is still included in the product's online ingredient lists.
Lawyers are seeking class-action status that covers all of Skittles' retail customers in the US, a number they say is too large to estimate.