Consumer sues candy maker over a chemical used in Skittles

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The suit claims titanium dioxide is toxic

Skittles is a candy brand that is especially popular with children. A lawsuit, filed against Skittles manufacturer Mars, Inc., claims that the candy contains a toxic chemical.

Jenile Thames, a California consumer who is seeking class-action status for his litigation, filed the suit in U.S. District Court in Oakland, accusing Mars of endangering its customers. The suit claims Skittles contain "heightened levels" of titanium dioxide, or TiO2, as a food additive.

"While we do not comment on pending litigation, our use of titanium dioxide complies with FDA regulations," a Mars spokesperson said in a statement to the media.

Titanium dioxide is a food coloring that gives the candy its bright, distinctive colors. Last year, the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) revised its previous assessment published in 2016 and concluded that the chemical should not be used in food.

“Taking into account all available scientific studies and data, the panel concluded that titanium dioxide can no longer be considered safe as a food additive,” said Maged Younes, who chaired EFSA’s panel on food additives and flavorings. 

European ban predicted

The California lawsuit cites the European panel’s conclusion that the chemical has the ability to change our DNA, and it predicts that the European Union will ban the use of the chemical within the next few weeks. In its 2021 report, the EFSA panel said small amounts of titanium dioxide appeared to have little effect but that it had the potential to build up in the body over time.

"A reasonable consumer would expect that [Skittles] can be safely purchased and consumed as marketed and sold," the lawsuit said. "However, the products are not safe."

The lawsuit also maintains that Mars agreed to remove the chemical in 2016 but did not. As evidence, the suit cites an email from the candy manufacturer to the Center for Food Safety.

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