Skittles ‘unfit for human consumption,’ California lawsuit claims

Skittles, the colorful fruit-flavored candy, has come under fire after a lawsuit filed in Northern California says people taste more than the rainbow.

Although most people can identify Skittles flavors like lemon, strawberry, and orange, few can probably name titanium dioxide, a coloring additive that helps give the candies their bright hue.

This ingredient is a “known toxin” and “unfit for human consumption,” according to a lawsuit filed last week against Mars Candy in the Northern District of California. She argues that US consumers are unaware of the health risks associated with artificial food colors.

Titanium dioxide — or TiO2 — is listed as an active ingredient in Skittles sold in the United States, although according to the lawsuit it has been removed from the candy’s recipe in several European countries and banned in several other countries.

In 2016, Mars Inc. pledged to phase out titanium dioxide, saying that artificial colors like TiO2 “pose no known risks to human health or safety.”

Around the same time, the European Food Safety Authority said there was uncertainty about the ingredient’s characterization. But in May 2021, EFSA concluded that there was enough research to suggest that titanium dioxide is no longer safe for use as a food additive.

The group said TiO2 particles raise concerns about genotoxicity, meaning a substance can damage a person’s DNA and cause cancer. EFSA said that after oral ingestion of the ingredient, uptake of titanium dioxide particles was low but could accumulate in the body.

The lawsuit, filed Thursday by San Leandro, Calif. resident Jenile Thames, seeks to commute the complaint into a class-action lawsuit against the Mars candy company.

Mars Inc. did not immediately respond to an email from The Times seeking comment on the allegations, but in a statement to the Today show, the candy maker said: “While we don’t comment on pending litigation, ours is Use of Titanium Dioxide meets FDA regulations.”

Here’s what we know:

Are Kegels Safe to Eat?

The insanely colorful advertising behind the candies urges consumers to “taste the rainbow”. But it doesn’t get into the fine print of food additives.

Titanium dioxide was approved for human consumption by the US Food and Drug Administration in 1966. It is used in a variety of foods, including baked goods, spreads, and salad dressings.

The FDA says the ingredient must not exceed 1% by weight of the food when used as an ingredient, and as of March 29, the agency has said titanium dioxide is safe as a food coloring.

However, the European Food Safety Authority sees TiO2 differently. In May 2021, its experts “could no longer consider titanium dioxide safe for use as a food additive.”

The agency said the ingredient’s overall toxic effects were inconclusive, but it couldn’t rule out the harmful effects of the food coloring and “couldn’t establish a safe level for daily intake of TiO2 as a food additive.” The European Commission will ban titanium dioxide, also known as E171, by the end of the year.

Could cones be made without titanium dioxide?

The concept of food additives includes preservatives that slow down product spoilage, as well as vitamins and spices. According to the FDA, color additives include dyes, pigments and other substances that are added to foods, drugs or cosmetics.

Titanium dioxide is used to give Skittles their bright colors, but there are other products on the market that don’t use this ingredient, court records show.

“Many of defendants’ competitors do not use TiO2 in their products and are still able to maintain the colorful appeal that defendants seek to achieve with their products,” the lawsuit reads.

Among the colorful candies, bright red Swedish fish soft & chewy candies, Black Forest gummy bears and sour patch kids are the suit names that do without titanium dioxide. Even M&Ms, also sold by Mars Inc., do not use titanium dioxide, the lawsuit says.

Tatiana Santos, chemicals manager at the European Environmental Bureau, a network of citizens’ advisory groups, told the Guardian that the US is taking a “wait and see” approach to regulating food ingredients.

“The US often waits for the damage to be done and the EU tries to prevent it to some extent,” Santos told the Guardian. “It often seems that the US prioritizes market over protection.” Skittles ‘unfit for human consumption,’ California lawsuit claims

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