Skittles ‘unfit for human consumption’, California lawsuit says

Skittles, the colorful fruit-flavored candy, is under fire after a lawsuit in Northern California said people were tasting more than the rainbow.

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

The ingredient is a “known toxin” and “unsuitable for human consumption,” according to a lawsuit filed last week against candy company Mars in the Northern District of California. He argues that American consumers are unaware of the health risks associated with artificial food coloring.

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

In 2016, Mars Inc. promised to phase out titanium dioxide and said artificial colors like TiO2 “pose no known risk to human health or safety”.

Around the same time, the European Food Safety Authority said there was uncertainty about the characterization of the ingredient. But in May 2021, EFSA concluded there was enough research to indicate that titanium dioxide was no longer safe when used as a food additive.

The group said the TiO2 particles posed concerns about genotoxicity, which is a substance that has the ability to damage a person’s DNA and can cause cancer. EFSA said that after ingesting the ingredient, absorption 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 turn the complaint into a class action lawsuit against the candy company Mars.

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 do not comment on the ongoing litigation, our use of titanium dioxide is in compliance with FDA regulations.

Here’s what we know:

Are Skittles safe to eat?

The incredibly colorful advertising behind the candies implores consumers to “taste the rainbow”. But he doesn’t get into the fine print on food additives.

Titanium dioxide was approved for human consumption by the United States 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 should not exceed 1% by weight of the food when used as an ingredient, and as of March 29, the agency maintains that titanium dioxide is safe as a food coloring .

However, the European Food Safety Authority has a different view of TiO2. In May 2021, its experts could “no longer consider titanium dioxide safe when used as a food additive”.

The agency said the ingredient’s general toxic effects were inconclusive, but it could not rule out harmful effects from the food coloring and “could not 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 Skittles be made without titanium dioxide?

The concept of food additives includes preservatives that slow the deterioration of the product as well as vitamins and spices. Color additives include dyes, pigments and other substances added to foods, drugs or cosmetics, according to the FDA.

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

“Many of Defendant’s competitors do not use TiO2 in their products and yet are able to maintain the colorful impression that Defendant hopes to achieve with its products,” the lawsuit states.

Among the colored candies, the names of combinations that do not use titanium dioxide are soft and chewy bright red Swedish fish candies, Black Forest gummy bears and sour patch children. Even M&Ms, which are also sold by Mars Inc., don’t use titanium dioxide, the lawsuit says.

Tatiana Santos, head of chemicals at the European Environmental Bureau, a network of citizens’ advisory groups, told the Guardian that the United States has 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 degree,” Santos told the Guardian. “It often seems that the United States prefers the market to protection.”

Los Angeles Times

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