Candy manufacturer Mars Inc. is facing a lawsuit in California. Jenile Thames has filed, accusing Mars Inc. of having heightened levels of titanium dioxide (E171) in Skittles. The lawsuit alleges since this additive is also used in plastics, adhesives, and paint, it is unsafe in food.
The molecules can supposedly damage a person’s organs and cause damage to their DNA, potentially resulting in numerous adverse health conditions including cancer.
This is where things start to get complicated. Ttitanium dioxide being in Skittles is not in question. In fact, the additive is in a lot of different foods. There are also studies which indicate the chemical is indeed toxic, if consumed in a large enough quantity. What that quantity is and just how dangerous it is still seems to be under research.
The FDA says it’s acceptable if it’s 1% or less depending on the weight of the food it’s being added to. In Europe however, titanium dioxide is already facing bans and restrictions. That could be partly why in 2016, Mars Inc. stated the additive would be phased, out along with other artificial coloring used in Skittles and other items.
The question is whether or not Skittles contain more than 1% of titanium dioxide. If they don’t, then this case doesn’t have a huge chance of success. Ideally, this additive should not be used in food at all. If it’s just being used for coloring, yet runs the risk of being toxic, why have it at all?
There’s little doubt removing titanium dioxide is the right thing to do. It’s really unclear if Mars Inc. is doing anything punishable in a civil court by using it. California safety guidelines may be stronger within its consumer protection laws, but they also may just defer to FDA guidelines.
It will be interesting to see if the plaintiff can prove heightened levels of the additive in Skittles. If they can, there just may be a pot of gold in their future.