Taste the toxin?
A lawsuit filed Thursday in northern California federal court alleges that Skittles candies, which boast the slogan “taste the rainbow” on account of their many colors, contain a “known toxin” called titanium dioxide, rendering them “unfit for human consumption”.
Jenile Thames, a resident of San Leandro, filed suit against Mars Inc, the confection company that produces Skittles, seeking class-action status and alleging 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”.
The civil suit contends that Mars has long known about alleged risks associated with this chemical and, in February 2016, publicly vowed that it would phase out titanium dioxide. After France banned titanium dioxide in 2019, Mars said that it would comply with this regulation, court papers state.
Thames’s lawsuit alleges that Mars “blew smoke” with that promise six years ago, by intimating that the phase-out was just because “consumers today are calling on food manufacturers to use more natural ingredients in their products”.
“Incredibly, Defendant even claimed that ‘[a]rtificial colors pose no known risks to human health or safety,’” Thames’ suit also said. “In doing so, Defendant concealed from consumers material information it knew.”
Thames contends that Mars still sells candy in the US that contains titanium dioxide as an additive and is “failing to inform consumers of the implications of consuming the toxin.” (Ingredients lists vary, some saying they might or might not contain titanium dioxide.)
“Instead, Defendant relies on the ingredient list which is provided in minuscule print on the back of the Products, the reading of which is made even more challenging by the lack of contrast in color between the font and packaging, as set out below in a manner in which consumers would normally view the product in the store,” court papers contend.
Thames argued that Mars does not appropriately apprise Skittles consumers of this alleged unsafe additive, either before or at the time of purchase – nor did the company tell them that these candies “should otherwise be approached with caution”.
According to the European Food Safety Authority, titanium dioxide is “a pigment commonly used to provide a cloudy effect and white background colour,” and is typically used in candy and baking. In 2021, the authority announced that “titanium dioxide can no longer be considered safe as a food additive.”
“A critical element in reaching this conclusion is that we could not exclude genotoxicity concerns after consumption of titanium dioxide particles,” the authority said. “After oral ingestion, the absorption of titanium dioxide particles is low, however they can accumulate in the body.”
A Mars spokesperson said in an email that the company does not comment on pending litigation.
July 16, 2022 at 12:51AM Victoria Bekiempis