A popular sweet is “unfit for human consumption”, a shocking new lawsuit claims.
Sweets giant Mars Inc is being sued by a consumer who claims Skittles contain “heightened levels” of titanium dioxide (TiO2).
The lawsuit was filed by Jenile Thames in California, US, and says the company “has long known of the health problems posed” by TiO2.
TiO2 is a white colouring agent that’s commonly used in confectionary as well as things such as cake, paints, coatings, adhesives, plastics, printing inks and roofing materials.
The product has also “demonstrated an ability to pass through biological membranes, circulate through the body and enter cells”.
The lawsuit adds that in February 2016, Mars Inc “committed to phasing out” the TiO2 in its product but has yet failed to do so, although it does note that the toxin was banned in France in 2019 and that the company announced it would comply with the country’s law there.
European lawmakers banned TiO2 as a food additive in March, with the the ban coming into effect in August.
This is due to there being some concerns it may result in genotoxicity – damage to DNA which may, over time, cause cancer.
The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) deemed that TiO2 “could not be considered safe for consumption,” prompting the European Commission to then announce that it would “adopt a ban on the use of TiO2 as a food additive.”
The EFSA added that after the ingredient is eaten, the absorption of titanium dioxide particles was low but could accumulate in the body.
The UK, however, hasn’t banned TiO2 because the Food Standards Agency in this country says there are just too many limitations and uncertainties in the European studies.
In response to the lawsuit, a spokesperson for Mars told Today : “While we do not comment on pending litigation, our use of titanium dioxide complies with FDA regulations.”
The lawsuit claims consumers “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.”
Thames, who filed the lawsuit, said in it that he would not have bought the Skittles if he had known it contained TiO2.
He says the ingredients on the sweet packets are difficult to read due to the contrast in colour between the font and packaging.
He is seeking unspecified damages for fraud and violations of California consumer protection laws.